CARROLLTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Every 69 seconds another patient is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The memory-stealing cognitive disease already affects more than 5.4 million Americans and is a problem that will likely only worsen as the nation ages.
“It’s being called the Silver Tsunami,” said David Downey with the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Dallas.
Downey said 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, and at that age, patients have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
By age 85, that chance is 50/50. Without action, U.S. health officials expect diagnoses to triple by 2050.
“I can remember what happened 40, 50 years ago,” said Dean Morgan of Carrollton, “but I can’t remember what happened this morning.”
The 82-year-old former business owner was diagnosed six years ago. But his wife, Carolyn, says she began having suspicions before the diagnosis was confirmed.
“Dean was having great difficulty driving. Even with me in the car, he would seem to be disoriented a little bit, “ said Carolyn Morgan.
After the diagnosis was confirmed, the couple wasted no time in denial.
“I just faced it head on,” said Dean. And that meant making some lifestyle changes. Dean voluntarily sold his car and stopped driving.
They sold the Plano home they’d lived in for many years, and moved into a retirement community.
“I love it… it really is worry-free living,” said Carolyn.
The couple also set out to learn everything they could about the disease and joined Trailblazers, an early diagnosis support group sponsored by the Greater Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Dallas.
“Many times people feel that they’re tackling these issues by themselves whereas in fact there’s a lot of folks around them in their churches, communities, that are struggling with the same issues… there is help available,” says Downey.
But Downey says more funding needs to be directed to Alzheimer’s Research.
Right now, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in America — but, it is the only cause of death in the top ten for which there is no way to prevent it, treat it, or slow its progression.
Yet, he says, Alzheimer’s research receives only a fraction of the funding that is directed to diseases that affect far fewer people.
However, the U.S. has commissioned health experts to meet and draft a plan to help combat the disease and develop better treatments or a cure by 2025.
The Morgans, however, are facing their futures with courage and optimism—and now encourage others facing this frightening diagnosis to get help.
They also say an early diagnosis and early acceptance are an opportunity to plan and “make decisions before you lose that ability.”
“It really is a conscious decision to either be positive and talk about it and be upfront with it, and learn what you can, or ignore it,” he said.
“And so we chose not to do that.”