We Cannot Ignore AD Any Longer - By Dr Domenico Pratico
It was not long ago that Alzheimer’s disease was hiding in plain sight. Despite its skyrocketing prevalence, this devastating disease was virtually ignored. Thankfully, in recent years, there has been a shift in global advocacy and a change in how we perceive the disease.
Today, I believe we stand at a momentous turning point, one that calls for a radical shift in our mindset and approach towards Alzheimer's:
we must make life better for those living with dementia
we must never forget that a person living with dementia is still a person
we must keep in mind that dementia is not a death sentence, but a way of life
To truly confront the overwhelming stigma surrounding Alzheimer's, we must adopt these principles as our own. Consider the late actor Gene Wilder, whose battle with Alzheimer's was only revealed after his passing. Similarly, esteemed college basketball coaches Pat Summit and Dean Smith retreated from public life due to the disease. The tragic endings of these lives offer a sad comparison to what Michael J. Fox and Lance Armstrong have done publicly for Parkinson’s disease and cancer.
In society, we witness a stark contrast in the narratives of these diseases. Those with Alzheimer's often withdraw, while those with cancer often lean in, fighting their battles in the public eye. It is disheartening that our society perpetuates such imbalanced perspectives on different diseases.
The question here is - had Gene Wilder chosen to speak out and become the face of Alzheimer's while he was alive, would anyone have listened? The answer remains uncertain, as it would have been an unprecedented step and our response as a society is hard to predict. That is precisely why the concept of "living with Alzheimer's" is both profound and revolutionary. The language we employ to describe a disease carries immense weight and shapes our perceptions of it.
Consider the language surrounding cancer: we "fight" it, we "battle" it, we wage a "war on cancer," and we "stand up" to it. Yet, where are these terms when it comes to Alzheimer's? There is no "war" declared against it, and popular magazines have never featured a roster of public figures living with the disease.
People with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease typically retreat, since one of the most common adjectives to describe someone with dementia – demented—is offensive and almost unspeakable.
So, I implore you not to be afraid. Join me in starting conversations about this "battle against Alzheimer's" and "standing up to Alzheimer's." Let us come together to fight this war with a shared objective of finding a treatment or cure.
The time to act is now. By embracing empathy, understanding, and public discourse, we can create a world where Alzheimer's is no longer ignored, where those affected find hope, support, and a collective determination to improve their lives and find a cure. Together, we can change the narrative surrounding Alzheimer's and pave the way for a brighter, more compassionate future.
If you like this blog post, I also wrote about - What If I have a parent with Alzheimer’s disease?
Domenico Praticò, MD, is the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, Professor and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, and Professor of Pharmacology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University You can find out more information on Dr. Domenico Pratico's research papers here. Connect with Dr. Domenico Pratico on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter & InstagramFollow Dr Domenico Pratico's lab website here: Pratico Lab