Tuesday, January 24, 2017
New PBS Film Addresses Alzheimer's, The 'Biggest Epidemic In Medical History'
A new film on PBS, set to air Wednesday, January 25, will address what experts say is an oncoming "health care tsunami" and a "the biggest epidemic in medical history."
(Credit: Twin Cities PBS)
“I’m not your mom. You’re my mom.”
Daisy Duarte spends just about every moment of every day caring for her mother, Sonja. She cleans her, dresses her, feeds her and tries to give her life as much meaning as she can for as long as she can.
“She hasn’t said my name in a long time,” Duarte said. “When I ask her who I am, she says, ‘Mom.’ I say, ‘I’m not your mom. You’re my mom.’”
Though her mother is only 61 years old, she is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. She has what is more commonly known as early-onset or younger-onset Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, up to 5% of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s have younger-onset.
Duarte and her mother are featured in a new documentary film Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts, which is slated to premiere Wednesday, January 25, 2017, at 10 pm ET on PBS. Filmmakers are touting the documentary as “an urgent wake-up call about the national threat posed by Alzheimer’s disease.”
Each day Duarte witnesses what could be her own future, as she too carries the gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s. She was the only one of Sonja’s three children who chose to find out if she carried the gene. Duarte is determined to help herself and others by participating in a clinical trial at Washington University in St. Louis and lobbying congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. for additional funding to find a cure for the disease.
A progressive, degenerative brain disease, Alzheimer’s slowly destroys memory, thinking and eventually all ability to function. There are now over five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. Because of the growing number of aging baby boomers, and the fact that the onset of Alzheimer’s is primarily age-related, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is projected to rise by 55% by 2030 and by 2050, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates the total number could explode to nearly 14 million.
For this reason, experts believe that Alzheimer’s will not only be a profound human tragedy but an overwhelming economic one as well. Due to the length of time people live with the illness and need care, it’s the most expensive medical condition in the U.S. and perhaps the most costly disease in medical history. Future costs for Alzheimer’s threaten to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid and the life savings of millions of Americans. It is estimated that if the number of patients increases as projected in the years ahead, the costs to care for them will exceed $1.1 trillion.
The debilitation of Alzheimer’s has become more well known in recent years especially since President Ronald Reagan disclosed his diagnosis of the disease in 1994. Reagan, who was enormously popular with an approval rating of 68% as he left the highest office in the free world and the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve two full terms, died in 2004 at the age of 93. It was this popularity that allowed his diagnosis to garner such widespread attention to Alzheimer’s and its effects on its victims.
Still families of sufferers and scientists alike are concerned about the fact that few know that Alzheimer’s is one of the most critical public health crises facing America. Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts illuminates the social and economic consequences for the country unless a medical breakthrough is discovered for this currently incurable disease.
“Seventy-one million baby boomers are heading for the risk age. It will be the biggest epidemic in medical history,” said Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, the vice-chair of Neurology and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Tanzi, who serves as the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, co-discovered all three early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease genes and identified several others as leader of the Alzheimer’s Genome Project supported by the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, for which Dr. Tanzi also serves as Chair of the Research Consortium. Tanzi also served on the team that was the first to find a disease gene for Huntington’s disease using human genetic markers and helping to launch the field of neurogenetics.
As with any major health threat, money for basic research on Alzheimer’s comes primarily from the federal government. But for many years, that funding was significantly lower than any of the other top ten diseases.
Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by FORBES
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length