During the month of November, which serves as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, Beaumont will publish a three-part series on Alzheimer’s and its impact on the patient as well as caregivers and the family. Many diseases affect the patient and their family, but few take as emotional a toll as Alzheimer’s.
A recent study by the Alzheimer’s Association found that 1-in-3 seniors who die suffer from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Rates of death related to Alzheimer’s disease rose 68% from 2000-2010, with the Alzheimer’s Association estimating that by 2050 nearly 14 million people will suffer from the disease. Alzheimer’s affects the patient but it also affects families, both emotionally and financially. In 2012, it’s estimated that 15 million Alzheimer’s caregivers provided more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care worth around $216 billion.
Alzheimer’s is a slow-moving neuro-degenerative disease where the nerve cells in the brain progressively die. While it results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior, confusion, language deterioration and emotional apathy, it doesn’t always affect motor function, sometimes stealing the patient’s mind but preserving the body. There is no cure and no way of reversing its effects.
Many caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s feel alone and lost. Their loved ones don’t act like themselves anymore and due to cognitive degeneration, Alzheimer’s patients require near-constant care and supervision. There are many resources available to care givers, including plans based on the stage of the disease and support from professionals who can assist with day to day care as well as financial and legal planning, but caregivers need to be empowered to ask for help.
Check back for the next two installments of our blog series. Part Two of Understanding the Impact of Alzheimer’s will focus on warning signs, treatment and support for Alzheimer’s, while Part Three will look at living with Alzheimer’s from a caregiver’s perspective.