I’m sure the person who thought it would be funny to rhyme Alzheimer’s with old-timer’s didn’t realize that their cleverness would eventually create widespread confusion and misunderstanding.
First, let’s set the record straight.
The first record of the word old-timer dates back to 1860.
A) A veteran
B) Someone who has a lot of knowledge and experience because they have been doing something for a long time
C) An American old man/woman
Alzheimer’s dates back to Senium Præcox, 1912, the title of an article by S.C. Fuller published in “Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases;” named for German neurologist Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915). The disease name was a shortened form Alzheimer’s first recorded 1954. The surname is from the place name Alzheim, literally “Old Hamlet.”
If we live long enough, we all become old-timers, old, but not all of us will get Alzheimer’s’. Somewhere along the way, the natural process of aging or senility and this devastating illness have become synonymous with each other.
Unlike senility, Alzheimer’s is a disease. Like diabetes. No one dies from it directly, though death certificates will often list these as underlying or contributing causes of death. Translation: people die from complications of the disease, not from the disease itself.
Top 10 things you die from in the USA
1. Heart Disease
9. Kidney Disease
You might be a glass-half-full type and think, “well, at least people can’t remember anything.” Think again. They live with an inexplicable terror of a world they don’t understand. An LSD trip they can’t come down from, a panic attack that never goes away. Families live helpless, resentful, and riddled with guilt, waiting for them to die and find peace. They are not in a coma. They are in a state of fight or flight, 24-7, for months, and even years. They eventually forget to eat or move. They die of infections, bedsores, or pneumonia.
Imagine what the disease does to caregivers. An Alzheimer’s caregiver, more so than even other types of caregivers, needs specific kinds of education and support.
The “emotional numbing” caregivers have to practice coping with anxiety or avoid triggering distressing situations every day which causes a sense of disconnection from their patients, often without the caregiver even realizing it. They feel alone, responsible.
The trouble with ALZ is not old age; it’s wrong timing. We need an intervention. Let’s relieve caretakers from their loneliness, families from guilt. Let’s give money to research. Let’s make this brain disease a priority. Our brain, just like our heart, kidney, and lungs, is asking us for an intervention.
The right time is now.