Alzheimer’s Awareness: The Reality of the Disease

Perhaps one of the most tragic aspects of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is the disease’s relentless destruction of an individual’s awareness – awareness of who he is, of where he is, of his identity, and the identities of those he once loved. This is why so many refer to the condition as the “slow death.”

It’s easy to become discouraged and lose motivation if we concentrate exclusively on the dismal statistics for Alzheimer’s.

6.7 million people are currently afflicted, with 13 million projected for 2050. One in three of these dies.

The cost of care, on a national basis, is $345 billion, with $1 trillion by 2050.

There are 11 million unpaid caregivers providing 18 billion hours of care annually, valued at $339.5 billion.

One in five women are afflicted, and one in 10 men. By 2030, 1.2 million additional direct care workers will be needed. 73 percent of the 6.7 million are 75 and older. June is also Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The 65 and older population is growing. By 2050, the number of 65 and older is projected to hit 12.7 million, living an average of four to eight years after diagnosis. 

30 percent of caregivers are 65 and up. 48 percent of all caregivers are for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Two-thirds of caregivers are women, and one-third of those are daughters.

There are not enough doctors, nurses, RNs, PAs, and pharmacists familiar with the field of geriatrics. There are not enough social workers, not enough money, not enough research, and the rare medicines receiving FDA approval are not affordable.

Why continue fighting these seemingly insurmountable odds? Why not simply declare “it is what it is” and admit the inevitable defeat?

Fortunately, there are people such as Shelly Young, MS, who is the Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association/North Central Texas chapter, who refuse to project anything but hope and encouragement.

“Both my parents suffered from dementia,” Shelly said. “So this is very personal for me. Our home office was established in 1980 with a vision to create a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementias. Our mission is to lead the way in achieving this vision by increasing global research, promoting risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.

“There is a central commonality for all caregivers; it’s the need for emotional support. I’ve been with the North Central Texas chapter for 16 years. One of my fundamental roles is in community outreach. Our volunteers are amazing. Many have senior care experience, while others are volunteer nurses. One of my newest volunteers called and asked, ‘What can I do for you?’ Taken as a group, these volunteers represent so many varied talents. They also have different circles of friends and connections, which is critical. Some are brilliant in actively seeking donations.”

Shelly, a former nursing home administrator, became aware of the shortages in the field of dementias. Spurred by the realization, she returned to school for a master’s
degree in gerontology.

“It’s easy to become discouraged, but at the same time, we’ve made significant progress. For one thing, we’ve defined our needs, and we’re resolving them.
We know we must figure out more and better ways to engage more people, convincing them of the importance of working together.

“We know we must increase our influence as advocators at the federal level. A huge focus is to convince Medicare to cover more meds while pushing pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost. 

“The Alzheimer’s organization hosts fundraisers such as The Walk to End Alzheimer’s and The Longest Day on June 21, when we encourage people to host their own fundraising activities.

“Everything begins with awareness. This is how we make certain the millions of caregivers know they’re not alone, that they always have someone at the end of a telephone to talk to, or at a physical and/or virtual meeting. I believe, sincerely, everyone can play a role in conquering these numbers. We’re here to help and to support caregivers across the country.”

Stay aware of those who no longer have the privilege to care for themselves. 


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