Jullie Allen knew something was wrong on the eve of a major business presentation five years ago. She froze.
“For some reason I couldn’t make the changes and I couldn’t figure out what I needed to have in there,” said Allen.
She called the client and quit. At 56 years old, it was her first sign that something was seriously wrong. A year later she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“When you get the diagnosis the first thing is it’s gone, I’m done. I’m going to sit in a chair, because you think about the old people who are sitting there,” said Allen. The good news is she’s determined not to be one of those people—yet.
Alzheimer’s takes its time.
It’s taking its time on Glenn Campbell, too. Since disclosing his own battle with Alzheimer’s earlier this year, the rhinestone cowboy is already losing his glimmer. ABC’s Terry Moran gave us all a gift with his recent profile on Campbell. The gift is being able to see the progression of Alzheimer’s in people we know and love. When Moran asked Campbell and his wife Kim Woollen about Alzheimer’s, here was the response:
Campbell: “I haven’t got it yet. In fact I don’t know where it came from?”
Woollen: “Yes, you’ve been diagnosed with Alzmeier’s.”
Julie Allen can relate. “It kind of is like a snake. I kind of just keeps eating more and more away.”
The Alzheimer’s Association gives us a wonderful top ten list of what to watch for in our own loved ones:
- Memory changes that disrupt daily life
- Challenges in planning and problem solving
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images or special relationships
- New problems speaking or writing
- Misplacing things
- Decreased judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
Tragically, there’s no cure. But Dr. Richard Hodes of the National Institute of Aging within the National Institutes of Health says they are making significant progress. I spoke with him at an Alzheimer’s panel put together by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.
“Perhaps one of the most important advancements that’s been made is the ability to identify stages of the disease far earlier than previously had been done,” said Hodes. “So we no longer need to be able to depend upon diagnosis when the symptoms occur which makes if possible to possibly prevent symptomatic disease.”
He admits there is a long way to go. But Julie Allen is not wasting time.
“To live with Alzheimer’s is to just plain live,” said Allen.