The full tragedy of Alzheimer's disease, which affects one out of every ten Americans over the age of 65, was impressed upon me during a series of Congressional hearings I chaired in 1984. At a hearing in Tennessee, a woman whose husband suffers from Alzheimer's offered testimony I will never forget. "A few months ago," she began, "my husband asked me to go into the bedroom—we needed to talk privately," he said. I went to the room and closed the door. Turning to me with tears in his eyes he asked, 'Am I losing my mind, honey? Am I going crazy?"' She went on: "My life can be described as a funeral that never ends . . . I want my husband back."
That woman is not alone. Two to three million "never-ending funerals" are sapping the strength of both victims and their families across America. A concerted effort is long overdue to defeat this disease, which erodes the mental and physical health of the patient before his or her time. Part of the solution lies in research to uncover the causes of the disease and develop treatments for it. Just as crucial, however, is ensuring that those who take care of patients with Alzheimer's know as much about the problem as possible.
That is one reason I am so pleased with Alzheimer's Disease: A Handbook for Caregivers, which contains a wealth of practical information about the effects of Alzheimer's on the patient's day-to-day life. The book offers detailed descriptions of the stages of the disease, the options for treatment, and the effects of other mental and physical characteristics upon the expression of Alzheimer's. It also offers valuable suggestions for approaching issues such as nutrition, sleep habits, and therapy. The book is a perfect bridge between those who know most about the disease—and those who know most about the patient.
Congress, by establishing regional centers devoted to the research and treatment of Alzheimer's, has taken one step in the right direction. The medical faculty at East Tennessee State University, by creating this fine book, has taken another. Perhaps, through more efforts like these, we can begin to lift some of the fear and uncertainty that surround this national tragedy.
Albert Gore, Jr.
Vice President of the United States