This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If Bill Miller could have just one wish, it would be to have his wife back. It's a wish many who have lost a loved one would probably make, but it's also likely to be the wish of those who have a loved one living with Alzheimer's.
For Bill, that person is his wife Beverly, one of over five million Americans living with the degenerative brain disease, and experts predict that number will skyrocket to 16 million by 2050.
It was in 2008 that family members first noticed something wasn't quite right. Beverly was forgetting simple tasks, but they considered it a normal part of the aging process. As her memory worsened however, it prompted them to seek medical help. In the past six years, the disease has progressed so that she is unable to read, use computers or dress herself. But while Bill misses the person Beverly once was, it's with a smile that he gives thanks for the person she still is.
"I can see the decreased capacities that are occurring, and I worry about this getting worse," Bill said. "But at the same time, she still has her humor and her interest in things, so while I do worry about the future, I try to live in the present, and value the time we have left."
It's exactly why Ronnie Daniel decided to get involved with the Alzheimer's Association. He's been the Executive Director of the Utah Chapter since January of this year, and is focused on providing support to the tens of thousands of Utahns living with the disease, and their caregivers.
"The support groups for the caregivers are incredibly therapeutic," Daniel said. "They provide opportunities for people to come together and commiserate a little bit. Tears are often shed, and these individuals find camaraderie and can learn and share ideas of how to care for their loved ones," he said.
The Association is also very engaged in trying to raise public awareness of the disease. It's vital knowledge, since by age 65, one in nine people will have Alzheimer's or some other related dementia, and by age 85, that number climbs to one in three.
And women are more at risk. They make up nearly two-thirds of those with Alzheimer's Disease - that's 3.2 million American women. In fact, women in their sixties are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's than they are to develop breast cancer. And there is no cure, but it's not for a lack of talent or capability.
At a national Alzheimer's Association event earlier this year in Washington D.C., Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institute of Health said they only lack funding, and that given the necessary increase in funding for Alzheimer's research, he is confident they can find a cure, and a way to prevent the disease by 2025.
The state of Utah is certainly doing its part. There are currently 10 different research studies being conducted at universities and companies across the state, and the Alzheimer's Association, Utah Chapter will be hosting "Reason to Hope", a series of fundraising events throughout the state beginning next February to assist these research efforts.
"As we know from other diseases like cancer and heart disease for example, with all the research that's gone on, they have been able to show a dramatic decrease in the number of deaths that have occurred, and in some cases, even provide curative and preventative measures for those diseases," Daniel said. "We're determined to do the same for people living with the disease here in Utah, and those who will be diagnosed with it in the future."
At age, 68 a cure probably wont come soon enough for Beverly Miller, of that fact, Bill is painfully aware, but it may not be too late for the millions who will be diagnosed after their 65th birthday, and for this reason, he urges the people of Utah to get educated about Alzheimer's, volunteer their time and services to the Alzheimer's Association and its events, and donate whatever funds they can afford to help end this disease.
As each passing day threatens to erase Beverly's memories, Bill will be by her side, doing all her can to help her remember, and to help her with the daily tasks that do not come as easy to her anymore.
"For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part," Bill said. "It's the promise I made to Beverly when I married her almost 46 years ago, and it's the promise I intend to keep."
To find out more about Alzheimer's and how you can contribute to efforts to end the disease, please visit: http:///www.alz.org/utah or call the 24 hour helpline at 1.800.272.3900.
To find out more about how you can get involved in Alzheimer's research studies, please visit http://www.alz.org/TrialMatch .
And, if you are concerned that you, or a loved one may have Alzheimer's visit this link http://www.alz.org/10signs for a list of the top 10 warning signs.