Posted: Sep 21, 2010 1:07 PM by Carina Corral
Updated: Sep 21, 2010 8:45 PM
It is World Alzheimer's Day, meant to raise awareness to these kinds of startling statistics:
-more than 35 million people worldwide have some sort of dementia
-by 2030 that number is expected to almost double and triple by 2050
-more than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease
-locally, more than 14,000 people in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties have Alzheimer's.
Barbara Schwimmer is one of those 14,000.
She and her husband Mel met when she was just four-year-old and he was ten.
" I had my eyes on him at a very young age. I met all his girlfriends," laughs Barbara.
Married now 51 years and life has taken an unfortunate turn.
" The future is gone. It's not like you can look forward to having a cure," said Mel talking about Barbara's Alzheimer's diagnosis.
She said day by day she feels herself getting worse and that the scariest thing for her, being a third generation Alzheimer's patient, she knows what is in store. " I know, I've seen the future from my family."
They are both now advocates for change.
She is on a clinical trial, hoping for a cure before the family gene is passed on to possibly their two daughters, or future generations.
He is on the local Alzheimer's Association board, which helps folks just like them through support and guidance.
" We do everything from home visits or office appointments where we help people go through what they're journey's going to be like what the different stages entail and what community resources are out there," said the San Luis Obispo Alzheimer's Association Area Director Sara Bartlett.
On a broader level, the group Alzheimer's Disease International took 100,000 signatures to Capitol Hill today begging Congress to make Alzheimer's a national priority, so that people like the Schwimmers, who have known each other their entire lives, don't have to gradually watch their future slip away.
"My greatest fear is waking up one morning and Barbara looking at me and saying 'who are you?'" said Mel.
Dementia is one of the costliest illnesses, but money for research is lower than for other major illnesses.
On top of that, the Alzheimer's Association does not charge for its services that help patients and caregivers through their difficult time, which is why fundraisers like the Memory Walk at Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo coming up on October 30 are so important.