Senior Market Advisor editor Daniel D. Williams spoke with Ruth Drew, director of family and information services for the Alzheimer’s Association, to dispel myths and to provide insight about the growing problem with the disease.
Williams: Let’s start by defining Alzheimer’s. What is it that the public may not know and needs to know about the disease?
Drew: First, that Alzheimer’s is a real disease. It is not normal aging. Many people age with a healthy brain and can function well into their 80s, 90s, even over 100. But, when a person has cognitive deficiencies that can be indicative of Alzheimer’s it’s important to get them diagnosed. And, if they do have Alzheimer’s, then the earlier the diagnosis, the more time they have to plan the care they’ll get. People get in a crisis mode when they do not have things planned out.
Williams: What are the most prevalent myths associated with the disease?
Drew: Many people think it’s normal aging. Certainly, it’s not. I think some people are surprised that you can die of Alzheimer’s. What often happens is a person loses the ability to walk or feed themselves in late stages. If they don’t die of something else first, then their inability to swallow properly allows fluid to build in the lungs. Since they’re not walking around and active they can get pneumonia. That is how some people die of Alzheimer’s.
Williams: Is the disease an old-age disease?