[D]ementia creates what should not be: mindless persons. Mindless, selfless, unreasonable creatures, somehow still looking like human beings. We see a metaphysical incompatibility in them, and it is deeply unsettling. They might as well be headless bodies, up and shambling around.
...[E]ach dementia story comes across as an individual tragedy. You read it or watch it or hear about it, and you might fear something similar happening to you, but you can’t really imagine such a thing ever happening to you. Literally—dementia is unimaginable. We can’t put ourselves in the place of the demented; we can’t wrap our minds around what it must be like to lose your mind. Instead, you and me, storytelling animals that we are—we invent confident memories of our future.
And then, of course, it happens to us.
There is no cure, preventive regimen, or way to halt the damage of Alzheimer’s. Right now, the only means for change lie within us: how we conceive of the illness, how we think of the afflicted. So many people are going to have to live with this dehumanizing disease! How do we make sure that they are able to do so with dignity, compassion? The importance of this question cannot be overstated. How are we going to accommodate the least of us—and those tasked with their care—once they become so many?
"By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older [in the United States] with Alzheimer's disease may nearly triple, from 5 million to as many as 16 million." www.alz.org