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Significant Health and Social Crises


Adapted from “Alzheimer's disease: Mysteries and Possibilities,” Certification in Gerontology by McHenry County College in Illinois and Basic Ministry for the Second Half of Life (2012).

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementia

Every reader will be affect either directly or indirectly during their life time

The World Alzheimer Report 2011 (Alzheimer's disease International, 2011) states that Alzheimer's Disease present the capacity for social and economic disruptions for which the world is woefully unprepared.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) prevents many older adults and their families from enjoying their "Golden Years." AD is a condition in which the concept of loss is central—the loss of one's memories, independence, ability to recognize loved ones, and dignity.

United States Statistics

Statistics about prevalence and impact are varied but sobering. Alzheimer's disease (Alzheimer's Association, 2012a; Alzheimer's Disease Research, 2012; Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2007; NIA, 2012; Simard, 2002):

Currently affects 2.4 to 5.3 million people

Is the 7th leading cause of death (and is often underreported)

Costs $100–172 billion annually

Involves 10.9 million caregivers

Additional statistics are sobering as well. In the United States (Alzheimer's Association, 2012a; Alzheimer's disease Research, 2012):

One in eight people aged 65 and older (13%) have AD

Every 70 seconds, someone in the United States develops AD (Approximately 454,000 new cases annually)

By the middle of this century, someone will develop the disease Every 33 seconds (equating to 1 in 45 people)

Women are more likely to develop AD and other dementias than men (Partially due to the fact that women live longer on average than men)

Hispanics and African-Americans have higher rates of AD than Caucasians

Approximately 5–10% of all cases of AD are believed to be hereditary (familial)

Half of those 85 years and older suffer from AD

On average, most people live for 8–10 years after diagnosis

AD represents about 60–80% of all cases of dementia (Making it the most common cause)

Individuals with less education appear to be at higher risk

Approximately 70% of AD patients receive care at home

The average annual cost for home care is about $76,000 (Medical expenses and indirect costs such as caregiver's time and lost wages)

Of those who do not personally have AD, one-third worries about getting it.

Named for the German physician, Alois Alzheimer (1864–1915) who first described it in 1906, Alzheimer's disease is (Alzheimer's Association, 2012c):

A disease that interferes with a person's daily activities, social relationships, social activities, and career

A progressive, degenerative, multifaceted, and fatal brain disease

The most common form of dementia

A disease with no definable cause

A disease with no current cure

Changes in Normal Aging

Normal Aging Changes

a. Examples of Normal Aging Changes

b. Examples of Possible Alzheimer's Disease

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life

a. Forgetting a colleague's name but remembering it later

b. Not being able to remember the person's name later on

2. Difficulty with planning or problem solving

a. Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook

b. Forgetting you have a bank account

3. Difficulty completing familiar

a. Occasionally having difficulty with using the television remote to try tasks at home, work, or leisure

b. Using microwave settings or recording a television show to set the microwave oven

4. Confusion with time or place

a. Getting confused about the day of the week

b. Forgetting how you got to a location

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

a. Vision changes related to cataracts

b. Passing a mirror and not realizing that you are the person in the mirror

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing

a. Having trouble finding the right word

b. Stopping in the middle of a conversation and having no idea how to continue

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

a. Misplacing a pair of glasses but finding them later on

b. Putting the glasses in the sugar bowl

8. Decreased or poor judgment

a. Making a bad decision once in a while

b. Giving large amounts of money to a telemarketer

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

a. Feeling tired of work, family, and social obligations

b. Forgetting how to complete a favorite hobby

10. Changes in mood or personality

a. Becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted

b. Becoming suspicious or paranoid with a spouse on a regular basis

(Adapted from Alzheimer's Association. (2012e). Know the 10 signs. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_

know_the_10 _signs.asp)

Caregiver Support

About 70% of individuals with AD and dementia live at home. Of those older individuals with AD or dementia, many receive non-medical home care, adult day care services, assisted living, and nursing home care (Alzheimer's Association, 2012a)

One of the greatest challenges of AD is the physical and emotional toll experienced by family members, caregivers, and friends of the person with the disease. These individuals must deal with changes in their loved one's personality; the need to provide constant, loving attention for years; and the demands of providing personal, intimate care in the form of bathing and dressing. New and unfamiliar roles must be assumed, and these changes are often difficult and sad. The decision about whether placing the person with AD in a nursing care facility is one of the hardest decisions a loved one may make. (NIA, 2012)

Caregiving has a tremendous impact on the health of the caregiver. Caregiving also negatively impacts the caregiver's career or employment. (Alzheimer's Association, 2012a) Interestingly, caregiving is not always a negative experience. It can have important positive effects such as the following (NIA, 2012):

Renewal of religious faith

A new sense of purpose or meaning in life

Fulfillment of a lifelong commitment to a spouse

An opportunity to give back to a parent some of what the parent has given to them

Closer ties with people through new relationships or stronger existing relationships

Support Groups

Family members, especially children of AD patients, are often angry, fearful, and guilty and often experience feelings of sadness, depression, jealousy, helplessness, and despair. They have lost the relationship between their parent and themselves. If the person with AD is living in the caregiver's home, feelings (both good and not-so-good) can intensify.

Often, support groups provide a safe place to share emotions and experiences, seek and give advice, and exchange practical information with others. Support groups often help caregivers realize they are not alone in their feelings and experiences. Offered all over the country and in many communities, they provide a wonderful opportunity for informal networking and positive peer group relationships (Senior Magazine Online, 2010).

Choosing Care Providers

When it comes time to provide a person with AD with more care than can be provided at home, there are several options available. Planning for a move to a facility requires forethought and careful consideration. Family members and/or caregivers need to determine which options are available, what type of facility will best meet the needs of the person with AD, and which costs and resources might be necessary to facilitate the move. The types of care settings vary but commonly fall into three main categories (Alzheimer's Association, 2012f):

Assisted living facilities (also called board and care, or adult living, or supported care) provide a bridge between living independently and living in a nursing home. These facilities offer a combination of meals, housing, supportive care, and health care. The federal government does not regulate assisted living facilities, and definitions of assisted living vary from state to state.

Nursing homes (also called skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, or custodial care) provide long-term care to individuals who require more intensive, ongoing supervision and care. These facilities have staff and services that address issues such as health care planning, recreation, nutritional concerns, medical care, and spirituality. Nursing homes are licensed by the state and regulated by the federal government.

Alzheimer special care units (SCUs) are specifically designed with the needs of Alzheimer's and other dementia patients in mind. These units can vary in form and may exist within various types of residential care facilities. Alzheimer SCUs are most commonly clustered in a setting so individuals with dementia are grouped together on a floor or unit within a larger facility.

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