If you start seeing a lot of purple this month, it’s likely because with more than 55 million people worldwide suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, a lot of people have good reason to draw attention to Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Purple is the official color of the movement, and this is the month for raising awareness.
Find out more about dementia and ways you can help fight it.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Dementia is a term for memory loss and other cognitive issues that are serious enough to interfere with a person’s life. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia—and the most common, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases.
Typically, Alzheimer’s affects people who are age 65 or older, although it can start at a younger age. It’s not a normal part of aging, but a disease in which neurons lose function and die because their communication, metabolism, and repair processes have been interrupted. It starts in the parts of the brain involved in memory and grows to affect many areas of the brain, stealing a person’s ability to live and function on their own. People typically live four to eight years after diagnosis.
None of that is especially encouraging news, which is why getting out the word is so important for addressing the disease and supporting research.
Know the signs of Alzheimer’s
According to Alzheimer’s Association, you need to schedule an evaluation if you have any of the following ten symptoms:
- Memory loss that disrupts your life—forgetting new information, asking the same questions repeatedly, forgetting important dates, or relying more and more on memory aids
- Difficulty planning or problem-solving—finding it hard to follow a recipe or develop a plan, difficulty concentrating
- Struggling to complete familiar tasks—struggling to drive somewhere you’ve been a hundred times or forgetting the rules of a game you’ve been playing for ages
- Time or place confusion—forgetting where you are or how you got there
- Difficulty understanding visual images or spatial relationships—driving becomes difficult because judging distance or seeing color is tough
- New problems with words when speaking or writing—trouble following or joining a conversation, getting stuck in the middle of a sentence
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps—putting things where they don’t belong, inability to go back over actions to find them
- Decreased or poor judgment—less attention to grooming, problems dealing with money
- Withdrawal from social situations—difficulty holding conversation leads many to withdraw
- Changes in mood and personality—confusion, fear, anxiety, and suspicion arise
Join the fight.
A lot remains unknown about Alzheimer’s and dementia, which is what makes awareness so important. Alzheimer’s Association deems June 21—the longest day of the year—the pinnacle of its monthlong effort to “fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s” through fundraising. You can set up a fundraiser of your own or donate through the site.
You can also become an advocate to learn more and to receive alerts about actions you can take to help influence policy decisions and to keep spreading the word about this disease, which at present is the cause of death for one in three seniors. We can help change that by supporting critical research efforts and policy decisions.