November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Month, a time when we shift our focus to Alzheimer’s and other dementias, diseases that are one of the most debilitating and life changing diseases in America. Some facts. . . in America:
- Over 6 million people live with Alzheimer’s
- By 2050 this number is projected to more than double
- In 2021 the disease will cost $355 billion
- More than 11 million individuals provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s
- In 2020 these caregivers provided care valued at almost $257 billion
These are staggering statistics, but they don’t effectively describe the physical and emotional impact on the patient or the caregiver. Almost all of us know of a loved one who has suffered from this disease. Many of us have been a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s victim. This disease robs them of the joy they hoped to enjoy as they grew older and puts a huge burden on those who give care.
I want to focus on the caregivers, but I first want to make the point that we need to find medicines that treat this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association states that they believe the first survivor of Alzheimer’s is living right now. That can only come true if we continue to do research to find these life changing medicines and procedures. The Association points out that no disease-modifying treatments exist, and for more than a decade there have been a series of initially promising but ultimately ineffective potential disease-modifying therapies. There recently was one medicine that gained FDA approval but time will tell its impact. Now is not the time to limit innovation. If Alzheimer’s continues unchecked our nation is projected to spend $1.1 TRILLION dollars in 2050, that’s $1.1 trillion in ONE year!
Caregivers are sometimes overlooked when we talk about the impact of Alzheimer’s. The fact is, nearly half of all those who provide care to older adults are caring for someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Who are these Alzheimer’s caregivers?
- 30% are over 65
- Two-thirds are women and half of them are daughters
- Two-thirds live with the person they care for
- One-quarter care for their aging parent and also care for a child younger than 18
- They are twice as likely as other caregivers to have substantial financial, emotional, and physical difficulties
These caregivers need help as they bear this tremendous burden. Click here for access to tips for caring for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s. You will find help on caregiving during the COVID-19 pandemic, gaining access to help in your community, and dealing with a wandering sufferer.
If you are worried about a loved one who might be suffering some sort of dementia you can click here to find the 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. There is a difference between typical age-related changes and the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
For at least 20 years there has been proposed legislation that would lesson the burden on caregivers by giving them tax breaks or some sort of compensation for the care they provide. When family members or other supporters supply care, it keeps the Alzheimer patient out of institutions like hospitals, short- and long-term care facilities and other institutions. This care saves our healthcare system billions of dollars, but it takes a significant financial toll on the caregiver. We need to talk with those who represent us in Washington to find a way to compensate these caregivers. We would most likely find that we would save even more money if we gave caregivers some help.
It seems we’ve talked a lot about heroes this pass year as we’ve weathered the pandemic. We should also recognize those heroes who have been caring for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia before the pandemic and will continue this loving service long after the pandemic is over. We owe them support now and a renewed effort to find a treatment or a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Our nation has proven that we can muster the resources and conviction to quickly find a vaccine for COVID-19. We need to develop this same “moon shot” determination to rid the world of this joy robbing and life taking disease.
p.s. Don’t forget to join us on November 17th at 2:00 pm ET for a virtual Town Hall talking about Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D open enrollment. You can Register Here to sign up for this town hall that will answer questions about this important open enrollment period.