My husband and I had been together 26 years when he became one of the nearly six million North Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Seven years later, I was an Alzheimer’s widow.
As useful as support groups, information booklets, and other sources of information were, what I wanted more than anything during those seven years as a caregiver was a drug that would alter the course of the disease.
But there is no drug that will stop Alzheimer’s from progressing.
There is no cure.
And there are no survivors.
Living with Alzheimer’s, I learned many things: that Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that is paid for with the currency of the heart and that for every individual diagnosed, a circle of others—partners, family, friends, employees and employers—are also victims, robbed of memory and relationships.
Society now recognizes the caregivers and the heavy burden they bear. But others also pay the emotional, physical, and financial prices: children, who become parents to their parents, grandchildren deprived of that special relationship, partners who see years of intimacy vanish as if they never were.
The costs are enormous—to families and to society as a whole. We cannot afford to lose that much brain power, and we will not be able to afford the spiraling cost of health care when the Baby Boomers reach Alzheimer's age.
I could not help my husband. But by joining the Board of Overseers of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, and supporting its important mission to accelerate the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s, I hope to be able to help others. Right now, the ADDF is actively supporting 85 drug discovery initiatives in five countries. But there are many more opportunities that it can't fund.
Perhaps one of those holds the treatment that might help your partner, your parent, your friend. How terrible to think that the cure was out there—but wasn’t found because the scientist couldn’t get funding.
We need your help. Please join us in what I believe is the greatest scientific challenge of our generation: conquering Alzheimer’s.
Joan Sutton shares her experience of caring for her husband and advocate for research funding for Alzheimer's drug discovery and development:
Joan Sutton and Howard Fillit, MD, the ADDF's Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer, reflect on the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's and the imperative of supporting research toward a cure:
Joan Sutton is a renowned Canadian journalist and author.