A growing number of Americans say they fear Alzheimer’s disease. Probably because a growing number of Americans have a family member or friend who is affected by the disease.
I’m referring to a MetLife Foundation survey that came out today.
What’s interesting to me is that the leading cause of death in America is heart disease, followed by cancer. Alzheimer’s disease is actually the sixth leading cause of death, after stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and accidents. But it’s cancer that is the most feared disease, followed by Alzheimer’s disease.
For the survey, respondents were asked which of five major diseases they were most afraid. Forty-one percent said cancer. Thirty-one percent said Alzheimer’s. That is an increase from 20 percent who named Alzheimer’s as the disease they were most afraid of, in a similar survey in 2006.
Additionally, the survey found that 23 percent of adults are extremely or very concerned that they may someday have to provide care for a loved on with Alzheimer’s.
What I found troubling was how few of us have taken steps to prepare for Alzheimer’s and dementia, which is projected to increase substantially in the years to come. The survey says only 18 percent of adults say they have made plans for the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s. Fewer than half of adults claim to have talked to their families about the disease. Only 21 percent of adults say they have made any financial arrangements for the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s.
Of course I understand – and share – the fear of this disease. I will even admit that I have not taken actual steps, had real conversations about the potential personal impact of this disease. But I will also make the point that learning about dementia, making some preparations and asking ourselves ”what if…” can make the whole situation less scary.