As a preventive medicine physician who truly believes "if you don't have your health, you don't have anything," our prevailing behaviors have always been hard to fathom. The parent who simply can't find time to cook a family dinner can, always, find time to take a kid to the ER or endocrinologist. People who can't afford mixed greens can afford diabetes test strips.
People who carefully and responsibly invest in the financial security of their retirement (although we know that's no guarantee of a good outcome!) routinely neglect altogether any investment in their health. If money can be put aside for future benefit, why can't time be "put aside" -- invested in physical activity, eating well, getting enough sleep? It can be, of course -- but our social norms don't encourage it, and it doesn't happen. A standard-issue, responsible modern adult -- carefully tends their money, and neglects their health. It's normal, and almost expected. But bizarre -- and often calamitously costly.
Many people reach retirement with the money they need, lacking the health they need to use that money for anything enjoyable. As a physician, it is excruciatingly painful to look into the imploring eyes of a retiree who has long anticipated their golden years -- and has cultivated the bank account to underwrite it -- now disabled by progressive diabetes, lung disease, brain disease or heart disease that need not have occurred.
And it is all too common. I have seen, and continue to see, many such patients. Patients who reach retirement age with robust good health and too few dollars come along, too, of course -- but far less often. And here's the news flash: Those with health but not much money are clearly a happier group than those with money but not much health. I have met them on the intimate turf of clinical care, and they have told me so.
This is the backstory for a careful consideration of the Alzheimer's disease crisis we now face.
There has been enormous attention of late to the grim and genuinely frightening problem of Alzheimer's disease. There is also the terrible burden on family members, who must face the high demands of care, compounded by the heart-wrenching loss of a loved one who is still there, yet already gone.