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Attending the 2013 Annual Alzheimer’s Association Caregiving & Research Conference at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH with my wife Rita proved to be way beyond our expectations and enlightenment. The theme, “Care to Cure” opened our eyes to the devastation of this disease and its long term consequences.

Our keynote speaker, Juergen H. Bludau, M.D. talked extensively on Research Update and The Importance of Clinical Trials. His extensive experience and knowledge as Executive Medical Director of Geriatrics and Home Health, in the Elliot Health System, enlightened everyone in attendance on how “The Disease” is likened to an out of control illness in the cruelest and harshest ways known to mankind. He gave us hope that possibly within the next five years, a major breakthrough in treating Alzheimer’s Disease is a true to life possibility.

It is evident, that if that breakthrough or outright cure is to come, it will necessitate vast amounts of financial aid to reach that goal. Our researchers, scientists, and doctors who specialize in Alzheimer’s Disease are working at warp speed, in their efforts to eliminate this dreaded illness from the face of the earth.

Three major points were brought to light. First, there is no known cure for Alzheimers. Second, there is no known cause. And finally, there’s no hard evidence that shows you can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. It was also brought to light that as ‘baby boomers’ age, the disease will get worse and spike in numbers. Statistics show that 5 MILLION PEOPLE HAVE IT, AND BY MID-CENTURY, THAT NUMBER WILL INCREASE THREEFOLD. These are alarming numbers that need to be taken seriously by our government and the medical, scientific, and research community. Sadly Alzheimer’s is far behind other major diseases in research money. And yet it is the most expensive illness to treat, and  the most debilitating illness to combat.

According to Dr. James Galvin, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, there are about 250,000 Americans who have the disease before age 65, and their numbers will likely increase as doctors are becoming more and more aware of the problem and better able to diagnose the disease at the earliest stages.

On the flip side, we were delighted to have Woody Sponaugle, Men’s Caregiver Group Leader in New Hampshire speak on the immeasurable worth of the caregiver who takes care of the patient with compassion, love, and hope. Woody symbolizes all that is special about the caregiver without whose care and support many of the Alzheimer’s victims would be forgotten and waste away alone in unchartered waters filled with uncertainty. Woody Sponaugle is a man of honor and principles who graciously offers his insights, observations and help in establishing a Caregiver’s Group. Contact the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Alzheimer’s Association on their 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 to access Woody’s telephone number and website. Help is always on the way through the Alzheimer’s MA/NH Association.

Rita and I belong to a Caregivers’ Book club that meets one Saturday each month, designed for caregivers to share their stories and experiences in the strength of friends who understand what it means to care for someone you love. At our last meeting we discussed the book, ‘Jan’s Story, Love Lost to the Long Goodbye of Alzheimer’s’ authored by her husband and Caregiver Barry Petersen, Emmy-Award Winning CBS News Correspondent. Jan’s Story will bring you to tears, captivate your heart, and bring you to a new level of awareness about this cruel disease. (Because the Disease takes, demands, and steals, we can no longer live in the world most people inhabit because their morality is not our reality) Excerpt by Barry Petersen in his book, Jan’s Story.

Now you know the harsh realities of the Disease!

Larry Pelland

Larry worked in the hospitality industry, serving as director of sales and marketing at a convention and visitors center.

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