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Awareness for Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease, National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed. Half of the people who need home-based or institutional long-term care have Alzheimer’s.

President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million. 

As people age, most things become at least a little more difficult. That includes memory and learning. But how can you tell the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s? November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The Alzheimer’s Association’s website (alz.org) has a list of differences between what’s normal and what could be an indication of a more serious problem.

It’s fairly common to occasionally forget names or appointments with age. But if it’s a normal age-related issue, the person will remember the information when prompted or reminded. With Alzheimer’s, once something is forgotten, it’s gone.  Someone suffering from the disease will ask for the same information over and over and their memory lapses will disrupt daily life. While an ordinary senior citizen might have issues adapting to something like new technology, a person suffering from Alzheimer’s will forget how to drive to a familiar location or complete other previously mundane tasks.

Misplacing objects is something even young people do. But a person with Alzheimer’s will misplace something and be unable to retrace his/her steps. Since mood changes like paranoia and depression can also accompany all forms of dementia, someone with the disease can often accuse people of stealing things that were simply misplaced.

A new report estimates that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease will triple in coming decades, both globally and in the U.S., driven in large part by an aging global population. Although some research softens those predictions and suggests the rate may fall as populations become healthier and better-educated.

In 2013, researchers estimate the direct costs of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s at $203 billion; by 2050 they say that number could rise to $1.2 trillion.

About 30 percent of today’s family caregivers fall into the “sandwich” category, simultaneously caring for an adult parent with dementia and dependent children. These caregivers perform demanding, undervalued work. Family caregivers must sacrifice time, opportunity, and salary to care for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s, often at the expense of other relationships and the continuing education needed for career advancement.

This complex disease with its numerous inextricable social, economic, and political aspects, is bearing down on the global community, and experts say families, governments, and economies are ill-prepared to confront it.

Extension professionals address eldercare challenges with information, workshops, and conferences, and by partnering with a variety of organizations to provide the awareness, advocacy, information, and support families and their elders need. For additional information contact the local Extension office at 873-5195.

Sources: www.alz.org; www.extension.org

 

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