By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It is a time designed to raise awareness of the progressive brain disease and show support for the estimated 6.5 million adults 65+ in the United States who currently are living with Alzheimer’s.
From the standpoint of awareness, the 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report published by the Alzheimer’s Association contains a wealth of great information. Here are just a few of the highlights:
▪ Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is caused by damage to the nerve cells in the brain.
▪ The cells that are damaged first are the ones responsible for memory, language, and thinking. Early symptoms include remembering recent conversations, events, and names and. Symptoms may also include apathy and depression. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include impaired conversations, disorientation, confusion, poor judgment, and changes in behavior, and finally difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking.
▪ Research indicates that the changes in the brain cells may start as many as 20 years or more before the symptoms become noticeable.
▪ Of the estimated 6.5 million individuals 65 years of age and older in the United States who are living with Alzheimer’s disease, an estimated 73% of the individuals are 75 years of age and older.
▪ The percentage of individuals living with Alzheimer’s increases with age, with an estimated 5.0% of individuals 65 to 74; 13.1% of individuals 75 to 84; and 33.2% of individuals 85+ with the disease.
▪ An increase to 7.2 million is projected by 2025.
▪ By 2060, the number of individuals 65+ with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to more than double the 2022 number, reaching 13.8 million, with 6.7 million being 85 years of age or older.
▪ Medications are available that may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, but to date the disease is ultimately fatal. The disease ranks as the 5th leading cause of death among individuals 65+.
▪ In a national poll, 45% of caregivers found providing help to someone with dementia was very rewarding. At the same time, caregivers reported higher levels of physical, emotional, and financial stress, with the stress levels increasing as individuals required increasing levels of supervision and personal care as the disease progresses.
▪ In 2019, family members and friends provided more than $271 billion in unpaid care to individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
It is important to note that caregiving can impact a family member’s ability to work and to engage in social interactions. It can have a significant negative impact on the physical, mental, and emotional health of older adults serving as the caregiver for a spouse with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. The health of the spouse who is serving as caregiver can end up worse than the spouse with Alzheimer’s. For an adult child, trying to balance caring for an older adult loved one while meeting the needs of one’s own family and work obligations can be extremely challenging.
It also is important to note that conditions other than Alzheimer’s or related dementia can cause issues with memory. These can include the side effects of medications, urinary tract infections, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, untreated sleep apnea, depression, Lyme’s disease, and excessive alcohol consumption. Often, there are treatments available that may reverse these conditions.
To help care for older adults with Alzheimer’s and take the burdens of caregiving off family and friends, Gardant operates a number of communities that are designed specifically to serve older adults with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. The White Oaks communities in Huntley, McHenry, and South Elgin, Illinois, and Noblesville, Indiana, for instance, feature specialized architectural design, group and individual activities; and dining service. Staff is specially trained in how to care for and communicate with individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. The focus is on providing opportunities for residents to maintain a sense of purpose and belonging in all seasons of dementia.
The White Oaks at Heritage Woods of South Elgin operates through the Illinois Supportive Living program so is able to serve adults 65 and older of all incomes, including low-income individuals.
Information about the Memory Care communities that Gardant operates is available on our website.