Responding to “Our Irrational Fear of Forgetting”

May 31, 2011 - Trish Vradenburg

On Sunday, May 22, Margaret Morganroth Gullette wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, titled, Our Irrational Fear of Forgetting.

And I responded to her, in my letter to the editor. But I didn’t quite get everything off my chest.

There is so much wrong with her editorial.

This woman is in denial.

We are happy she had such a good experience with her mother and Alzheimer's. Sadly, that is certainly not the case with the majority who suffer and the families that cares for them.

Mrs. Gullette had the luxury of visiting her mother in an assisted living home and leaving the chaos at the door. She didn't change her mother's diapers, or suffer paranoid accusations, or deal with inevitable depression. Most families do not have that luxury. They either spend 24-7 with the victim and put a hold on their own life for 8 to 20 years, or put their mother/father/husband in a nursing home and go bankrupt.

Mrs. Gullette pointed out that ONLY 1 in 8 have Alzheimer's after 65 (apparently ignoring the 1 in 2 at 85). But still, 12.5%? That is an outrageous percentage to simply accept. Are you 65? Do you want those odds?

People are afraid of Alzheimer's, and they should be.

But this lah-de-dah attitude results in no urgency to money for research. While Alzheimer's costs the U.S. $183 billion dollars a year, only an estimated $480 million is spent on Alzheimer's research. And it's the 6th leading cause of death in Americans.

Add to this, that it is only in the last two months that Alzheimer's even has an official diagnosis possibility with Medicare.

Would she tell polio victims to lighten up? Would she tell Jonas Salk to chill -- we can just make more iron lungs?

Cures are cheaper than iron lungs. And certainly cheaper than the $184 billion AD costs our nation each year.

We need to bring Alzheimer's to the forefront of our conversation -- not bury it.

Only with knowledge will the public understand that while AD may not be catching, it is rampant, devastating, a national emergency. Attention must be paid.

I watched my mother, too. This lioness of a woman disappeared -- DISAPPEARED -- into the chasm of Alzheimer's. She didn't sing songs; she didn't recite poetry: she didn't have new material.

I would love our elder citizens to be able to walk into the sunset holding hands and accepting the vagaries of aging.

In order to do that, we had better embrace coming out of the closet -- as those with HIV-AIDS did -- and demand Congress and NIH to give us the resources for a research breakthrough.

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