According to the The Alzheimer’s Association 2020 Facts and Figures Report (F&F report), in 2020 the total cost of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to reach 305 Billion dollars, that’s right billion. If that doesn’t give you pause, that number does NOT include the nearly 244 billon in unpaid caregiving by family and friends.
Most of those unpaid or informal caregivers need help and support and an important part of that equation is insuring you’re seeing the right doctor; specifically, a Geriatrician. The problem with this however is a shortage of Geriatricians to meet the growing need. The “writing is on the wall” that things are only going to get worse according the the F&F report. In 2019, there were 99 Geriatricians serving the State of Connecticut and 32 serving Rhode Island. It’s projected that we would need 497 Geriatricians to serve just 30% of the 65 and older population in Connecticut in 2050 and 147 to serve that same population in Rhode Island in 2050.
These figures make it clear that the role your primary care physician (PCP) plays is becoming more and more important. They are now and will become critical to the process by identifying warning signs, providing accurate diagnoses and simply meeting the needs of those suffering from this insidious, progresive disease that is ultimately fatal.
While being a part of a conversation at a hearing with a Probate Judge about appropriate custody and responsibility of a family member, my comments were dismissed by one of the siblings becuase I wasn’t a physician. He’s right, I’m not, but my credibility was reestablished when I reminded him that I actually train physicians, nurses, aides and informal at home caregivers to help them better understand the illness and how to deal with it’s many challenges.
In a 2019 survey of PCP’s, med school grads completing a residency in Primary care and recent Primary Care Residency graduates, the following was revealed.
-PCP’s recognize they are on the front lines when it comes to diagnosing and providing care of those with dementia.
Half of them believe that the mdical profession is not prepared to meet the demands that the increase in the disease will create.
More than half say that there are not enough specialists to deal with referrals.
Med school and Residency programs in primary care offer very little
course work and contact related to those with dementia (This is also true of most nursing schools).
Although PCP’s feel an obligation to stay current with information related to care of those with dementia, fewer than half of those surveyed have pursued additional training since medical school. The reason? The training doesn’t appear to be available.
It is not my intention here to “throw the medical profession under the proverbial bus.” No one holds physicians and especially nurses in a higher . regard than I do. It’s simply critical to the quality of life of your loved one that they are under the care of those that understand what they’re dealing with and how to deal with it. From your PCP to an aide or nurse you may have in your home, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you get help and support from those that truly understand Alzheimer’s and other dementias and be able to deal with the changing behaviors that you are going to be confronting. If you are currently in the trenches, you know exacty what I’m talking about. Each case is different and there is no one size fits all approach to Alzheimer’s/dementia care. It’s imperative that your PCP understands that.
There’s a reason that PCP’s can and do refer us to other specialists when the situation calls for it. If dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s dementia is not in their “wheelhouse” then the next step should be obvious to both of you.
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