It’s daunting to read some of the facts and figures from the Alzheimer’s Association. Stats such as this:
In the United States, an estimated 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and someone develops the disease every 69 seconds. Unless something is done, as many as 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s in 2050 and someone will develop the disease every 33 seconds. In 2010, 14.9 million family members and friends provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias—care valued at $202.6 billion.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Based on mortality data from 2000-2008, death rates have declined for most major diseases while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen 66 percent during the same period.
The Baby Boomer generation hasn’t been about frailty. Since day one, they’ve had strength in numbers—able to go through life with the knowledge that—simply by those sheer numbers—they’d be the indomitable force at whatever life stage they’d be at. Which is why AARP probably uncorked some champagne once 1996 rolled around—the year the first wave of boomers became eligible to not only join the retired persons ‘club’ (senior discounts!)—but also add their collective boom to AARP’s advocacy efforts.
But lurking in the background—regardless of CNN’s display of boomer vitality presented on one of their lead stories today—is a darker side of being Boomer: Alzheimer’s.
With statistics such as those above, it’s hard to understand why, for so many of us, Alzheimer’sis someone else’s parent’s or grandparent’s disease. But as the video at top states, Alzheimer’s can happen to anyone—and 65 is the age at which things start to shift into higher gear for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles about every five years after age 65.
And this year, 2011, just so happens to be the year in which the first wave of Baby Boomers turn 65.
It’s a sad truth the Alzheimer’s Association has been aware of long before any public cognizance—and even now, many probably don’t have any sense of the devastating imprint Alzheimer’s is about to leave on our Boomer nation.
What doesn’t make the Alzheimer’s lottery any easier—for those who may be afflicted and for their loved ones—is news like that which was reported at NPR.org this past week. It’s the story of Aurora Navas, who just happened to develop Alzheimer’s disease. As the demands to care for her increased, her family had to turn to assisted care. They trusted the assisted care facility to care for Aurora. Instead, she wandered out of the facility to a nearby lake, and drowned in eighteen inches of water.
Elder care abuse, nursing home neglect, assisted care negligence appear to be more common than we’d like to be aware of. The NPR article mentions a joint study done by The Miami Herald and WLRN which focused on assisted care facilities in Florida. The findings were bleak: at least 70 questionable deaths found in FL assisted living facilities in the past decade.
And, sadly, that number—and not just in Florida—stands to grow given the aforementioned strength in numbers the Boomer generation presents, particularly when combined with the lack of awareness Alzheimer’s patients experience.
As caregivers, there are signs to be aware of when it comes to elder abuse or neglect. Please read our information on the signs of nursing home abuse—and what to do about it if you suspect it. There are lawyers who specialize in elder care abuse and they are there to help you.
For information on Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, treatment options, statistics, information and advocacy, I can’t urge you enough to visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at alz.org. And be sure to check out the Celebrity Champion webpages where Anthony Anderson, Katie Armiger, Wayne Brady, Coach Frank Broyles, Kate Burton, Dominic Chianese, Dwight Clark, Dear Abby, Diamond Jim, Olympia Dukakis, Hector Elizondo, Emerson Drive, Shelley Fabares, Jack Ford, Vivica A. Fox, Soleil Moon Frye, Peter Gallagher, Victor Garber, Phyllis George, Leeza Gibbons, John Glover, Bob Goen, Bryant Gumbel, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Emma Mae Jacob, Matt Jenkins, Rafer Johnson, Lainie Kazan, Ricki Lake, The Marshalls, Kathy Mattea, Natalie Morales, Terry Moran, Kate Mulgrew, Terrell Owens, Stephen Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, Tony Plana, Sarah Polley, Ahmad Rashad, John Runyan, Rex Ryan, Molly Sims, Jean Smart, Brent Spiner, April Taylor, Lea Thompson, Tracie Thoms, Dick Van Dyke, Anna Wilson and Whiskey Falls have lent their voices, their passion and their commitment to the fight against Alzheimer’s.
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