Alzheimer’s disease is not a topic most college age people think about. It is often thought to be an “old person’s disease”. But Alzheimer’s has far reaching implications for many people due to the fact that it affects so many families and loved ones. Alzheimer’s is not rare. It is actually the 6th leading cause of death in the United States with one out of three seniors dying with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
So what exactly is Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes nerve cells in the brain to decay and tangle up leading to severe tissue loss and brain damage. In addition to nerve cell decay, clusters of protein called plaques form in the brain blocking brain cells from communicating with one another. Scientists are not sure what causes Alzheimer’s. Advancing age is a risk factor but contrary to popular opinion, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. It is a neurologic disease. The disease is progressive and the patient will gradually lose their memories, personality, awareness, and functioning. There is no cure.
I am familiar with Alzheimer’s because my mother has been declining over the past 15 years with it. The disease is often called “the long goodbye” because it is such a long term illness. The patient’s personality and functioning decline so gradually that it is almost hard to recall who they used to be before the illness took hold of them. It is only when I see home movies from my childhood that I remember how my mother used to be. Sometimes I am surprised to see her in these old videos because I forget what she used to be like. It is almost as if I am watching images of someone who has already passed away. At times, it can be haunting.
So how is this relevant to libraries, you may ask? There are currently 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. But with the large population of Baby Boomers hitting senior citizen age, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is predicted to swell to 16 million by mid-century. This presents a great opportunity for students interested in medicine, nursing, and research. With so many families becoming affected by the illness, caregivers and medical personnel will be more in demand. Pharmaceutical companies and research scientists will be increasingly studying this disease in hopes of finding a cure.
Touro Library has a wealth of books and articles on the subject of Alzheimer’s. Many of these books are eBooks which can be read online in the comfort of one’s own home. Some suggested eBooks on the topic are:
Contributed by: Annette Carr, Business Librarian, Broadway