Here are just a few of the devastating statistics from the Alzheimer's Association: Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. As of 2014, an estimated 5.2 million Americans have the disease, including the roughly 200,000 people under 65 who are suffering from younger-onset Alzheimer's. About 500,000 people die of Alzheimer’s each year. Last year, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours in unpaid care, valued at more than $220 billion.
President Obama declared November National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a notion that can be of little comfort to those family members and friends who live with the disease every minute and every day of every month for years on end. In some victims, Alzheimer’s will kill in a year or two. In others, it can slowly burrow deeper into the brain for more than a decade, before death arrives from pneumonia, stroke, cancer or simply from the inability to swallow. Everyone will agree that Alzheimer’s awareness is urgently needed, but it will take more than a presidential proclamation to ramp up the search for a cure for this chronically underfunded epidemic.
Here are a few viral videos doing their part:
This C-Span clip below has probably done more to raise awareness of the disease than anything else on the Internet. Actor Seth Rogen delivered an opening statement before a Senate hearing on Alzheimer's Research last February in which he talked about his mother-in-law’s early-onset diagnosis and slow deterioration — and the fact that Alzheimer’s still faces the same stigma cancer struggled with 20 years ago when people shied away from talking about it. “America whispers the word Alzheimer’s because their government whispers the word Alzheimer’s,” Rogen states. The video has been viewed more than 6.6 million times.
“What's one thing that you never want to forget?” That’s the question posed to people by the Denver chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The answers are unexpectedly moving and, as you might expect, universal.
This stark animated 2014 short from Norhan Kamal attempts to visualize what the disease looks and feel likes in the simple, line-drawn figure of a man unable to remember the easiest of tasks (eating, walking into a room).
This excerpt from an ABC Nightline report titled "Experience 12 Minutes of Alzheimer’s Disease" also attempts to imagine the experience of someone with Alzheimer’s. A reporter and a caregiver wear headphones emitting disorienting static, wear myopic goggles and have their fingers and toes temporarily crippled while performing everyday chores. While the goal in these two clips is admirable, the grim truth is that no one can truly know the daily hell of the disease without actually having it.
Finally, this preview of the soon-to-be-released documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, points up another side of Alzheimer’s awareness, the desire to make the best of a fatal diagnosis. It’s fine and necessary to celebrate a life well-lived, but it’s also important to stay angry. Anger fueled the search for a cure, or at least a way to manage the deadly scourge of HIV/AIDS. Which leads to this ironic side note: While researching the videos for this piece, I noticed YouTube had placed a banner on its tool bar asking for money to help fight a different and quite curable disease: Ebola. So far in America, Ebola has killed one person.
For more Viral Video nuggets, go here.