Face the Facts!

 In Counseling & Support

Face the Facts!

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lzheimer’s disease is not just about memory loss. Like other types of dementia it robs people of their dignity and the ability to live independently. Family members lose the person who they knew as their parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle or cousin.

Here is an all-too-common story: Sally is 83 years old, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and living alone. Her four children live hundreds of miles away and are desperately trying to support Sally. She has lost weight because she forgets to eat and has difficulty preparing her own meals. Her personal appearance is deteriorating. Sally still drives. This is evident from the many new dents in her car. Unfortunately Sally has given up her weekly bridge game with her friends because Alzheimer’s disease has robbed her of her ability to concentrate and to remember the rules of the game. Sally’s children recognize that Sally is no longer able to live independently or drive. Like many families trying to cope with Alzheimer’s disease, they face difficult and agonizing decisions about where Sally will live and how they can afford the cost of a residential care facility. Additionally they face the heartbreaking conversation with Sally about moving to a facility and the loss of her car.

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The first wave of this tsunami called Alzheimer’s disease has already hit; we now have 5.2 million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. The second wave is arriving as baby boomers are now turning age 65. This has a human and economic toll for Americans. In 2010, 83,494 Americans died of Alzheimer’s disease; the sixth leading cause of death in the United States overall and the fifth leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. Among 70-year-olds with Alzheimer’s, 61% are expected to die within the next ten years. Among 70-year-olds without Alzheimer’s, only 30% will die in that same time. Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased 68% between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from other major diseases, including the number one cause of death (heart disease), decreased. Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression. Medicare and Medicaid costs for Alzheimer’s care top $140 million annually. By 2050, Alzheimer’s disease will cost Americans $1.2 trillion annually.

Where do we go from here? In 2012 the federal government developed the National Alzheimer’s Plan. It updated that Plan in 2013. The update calls for $80 million in additional Alzheimer’s research funding in the 2014 budget. It also calls for $20 million in caregiver support funding. Families need to contact their Member of Congress and request that they support this funding for the National Alzheimer’s Plan.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest private funder of research for a cure. You might consider helping to raise funds to support local services and to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Make your voice heard and join the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, an annual event held each September in Coeur d’Alene. Find a way to participate in other Alzheimer’s awareness efforts and events. Alzheimer’s disease touches all of us in some way.

The Alzheimer’s Association – Inland Northwest Chapter provides a 24-Hour Helpline at (800) 272-3900. The Chapter also has support groups and no-cost education events. In July, it opened a support group for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia along with their family members. The Chapter has a wide variety of written information and the website at www.alz.org also has invaluable information, a calendar of local education events, videos, chat rooms, and bulletin boards.

Take action now! Seek help for your loved ones from agencies like the Alzheimer’s Association and join the voices of millions of Americans to end this disease.

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