My experience as a lecturer has taught me that there is no quicker way to lose your audience than by quoting statistics. In spite of that, here are some hard hitting facts about Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in America. There are over 5 million Americans living with this disease and there are over 15 million unpaid caregivers caring for most of them. Tragically, nearly 30% of those “at home” caregivers will die before the people they are caring for. Finally, from 2000-2010, deaths from breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and prostate cancer have all dropped; deaths from Alzheimer’s disease has risen an appalling 68%.
As a Master Trainer of Alzheimer’s care and a former Administrator of two dedicated communities for the care of those with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders, I’ve seen the alarming toll this disease takes on those “at home caregivers.” One afternoon while working in my office, I was distracted by a women, let’s call her Mrs. Smith, who came in and was yelling at her afflicted husband. “I’m sick of you embarrassing me in public, I’ve had it with you and that’s why I’m putting you in this place.” I immediately came out of my office and introduced myself. I had one of my staff invite Mr. Smith to enjoy a glass of lemonade while I spoke with his wife one on one. It was then that it became clear to me that there are literally thousands if not millions of dedicated family and friends that are caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders that have no idea what they’re dealing with or how to deal with it. For that matter, I’ve learned first hand that there are also paid Healthcare providers, at all levels, that don’t have a basic understanding of this illness.
These articles are designed to help those paid and unpaid caregivers better understand the disease and how to cope with it. The result, a better quality of life for the loved one and the caregiver. I’ll cover vital “do’s and don’ts, the most common health care mistakes made by seniors, warning signs and most importantly, provide you valuable information about what is happening and why.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia but it’s important to remember that dementia is not always Alzheimer’s. Approximately 65% of all dementia diagnoses are, in fact, Alzheimer’s. It’s important to understand that there is also vascular dementia, infarct dementia, dementia caused by head trauma like concussions ( punch drunk boxers and ex-NFL players) and many many more. For the reasons stated in the opening paragraph, my focus is Alzheimer’s.
If you are one of those 15 million unpaid caregivers, you need to understand that the number one thing your loved one (and I hope you are treating them like a loved one even if they aren’t) is looking to you for is to feel safe. Appropriate touching, hand holding, hugging and verbal reassurance will go a long way to prevent anxiety and fear in your loved one. What had prompted Mrs. Smith’s visit was a trip she had taken to the mall. She simply wanted to exchange a sweater and told her husband, “you stay in the car, I’ll be right back.” As Mr. Smith watched his security blanket walk away in a sea of automobiles, there was no way he was staying in the car. He didn’t feel safe. Mrs. Smith learned a great deal that day and over time, we ended up caring for her husband and her mother.
If you have any specific questions please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer them directly or in a future article. Meanwhile, remember to Join the Journey.