Tuesday October 16, 2012

Alzheimer’s disease, which slowly drains away plans, dreams, memories, bank accounts and ultimately lives, is devastating for sufferers and their families. Too little is known medically about this cruel and incurable disease, and even less may be known about how it afflicts those who have the disease and their care-givers.

Marjorie Allen of Pittsfield and two friends will begin providing that inside knowledge today with the publication of their book, "A Look Inside Alzheimer’s: I Know Who I Am Today, But What About Tomorrow?" Ms. Allen, a former Berkshire Eagle copy editor who currently works in the obituary department, lost her husband, David, to the disease three years ago. Her co-authors, Susan Dublin and Patricia Kimmerly, are suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, and as Ms. Allen explained in Monday’s Eagle, the three decided to combine efforts to inform readers of what it is like to experience the disease personally or through a loved one.

Because the disease robs a sufferer of his or her mental capacity, it affects every aspect of life, and the strain it provides on friends and families, who helplessly watch their loved one slip away, is devastating. The cost of care is high and often must be provided for years, and a diagnosis means it is difficult if not impossible to get health insurance. It is estimated that more than 15 million Americans care for Alzheimer’s sufferers in some fashion, a number that will climb as cases increase and the disease strikes people at a younger age.

Encouraging if incremental progress is being made in research, including a promising report issued earlier this fall, but funding for medical study lags behind other scourges like cancer and heart disease. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization reported that there is a new case of dementia every four seconds and predicts that cases will triple in number over the next 40 years. More must be done at the research level to combat Alzheimer’s and other diseases that trigger dementia. More must also be learned about Alzheimer’s specific impact, and "A Look Inside Alzheimer’s" should play an important role in educating the public about this terrible affliction.