YORK, Pa. — Photographs are all Kristin Gould of York County has to remember her mother, Janice, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 57.
"There's so much that you lose by having your mom start to not remember herself, but [also] you and your children and it's a very bizarre type of situation," Gould said. "People think it's all a person can't find their keys or that person doesn't remember how to make a phone call, but it's a regression back to infancy."
Eventually, her mom's body forgot how to swallow and she passed away, weighing just 78 pounds at the age of 68.
"So it really just strips you of your dignity and yourself, and you know... so... it was hard," Gould remembered.
She said the worst part for her was knowing her mom wouldn't have wanted to be taken care of in that way.
The Alzheimer's Association's 2023 Facts and Figures Report shows more than 400,000 people are living with Alzheimer's and other related dementias in Pennsylvania. Jeremy Bland with the Association's Greater Pennsylvania chapter says if you add in the more than 400,000 caregivers, that's up to a million people dealing with the disease.... and an important reason to speak up.
"Talking about the disease, talking about the struggle, the challenges, caregivers you know, they tend to think that they're alone and they're not," said Bland.
The report highlights the urgent need for increased funding and research to find a cure. It also highlights the economic impact of the disease, with costs expected to reach $1.1 trillion by the year 2050. It also emphasizes the importance of early detection and diagnosis, something Gould can't echo enough.
"If you notice something isn't right, call not only the family doctor who can be amazing, but get to a specialist, get to the people who are schooled in Alzheimer's," Gould said.
The Alzheimer's Association says caregivers should know they are not alone and that they can reach out to the Association at anytime. To contact the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter, click here.
For a look at the Alzheimer's Association's full report, click here.