What to Do If Dementia Affects Someone You Care For
Why It Matters:
- Between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease have decreased 9% while deaths from Alzheimer's have increased 145%. 1
- More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. 1
- Taking on the role of caregiver can have significant implications financially, emotionally, and professionally.
We all hope dementia never affects a loved one. But the fact is every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, and one in three seniors are affected by it or another dementia.1
Knowing that dementia could touch the life of someone you know, having insight and tools at the ready can help you prepare for, or manage, the journey of caregiver.
Understanding Alzheimer’s and dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms.2
Alzheimer’s affects memory, thinking, and behavior.2 While everyone experiences the disease somewhat differently, there are three general stages: early, middle, and late.
Knowing the risk factors
After 65, the risk for getting Alzheimer’s doubles every five years, and nearly 1/3 of people over 85 are living with the disease.3 Other factors that can increase an individual’s risk include family history and gender, with women accounting for two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s. 4
The good news is that researchers have gained insight into reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s through adequate exercise, proper nutrition, and positive social interaction.
Identifying the signs
While it’s not unusual for someone to experience mild memory issues as they age, there are certain symptoms that should be discussed with a doctor. As research reveals more information on the treatment of symptoms, early diagnosis will become increasingly important. While it can be difficult for an individual to identify these changes in themselves, family and friends may be the first to notice.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s:5
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and depth perception
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
Preparing for the possibility
The AgingWell Hub – a research collaborative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business – has created an interactive cost of caregiving calculator. It’s designed to help families better understand the upfront costs associated with providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The tool will walk you through each stage of the disease, show the care needed in each of them, and the associated financial implications.
Having hope and getting help
In the past few decades, progress has been made in understanding the disease. Earlier intervention has been made possible, and there are FDA-approved treatments available that can help manage the symptoms.
If you or a loved one is facing the challenge of Alzheimer’s, you don’t have to go it alone. Many resources exist for obtaining information and support. The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 helpline (800-272-3900) as well as an online Community Resource Finder.
Things to Consider:
- According to LIMRA research, an estimated 77 million Americans in the working age population (18-64) identify as "unpaid family caregivers." 6
- It’s important to be aware of the cost of care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
- Whether you’re a caregiver or a potential caregiver, being familiar with the resources available to you can help you feel empowered vs. overwhelmed.
1 “Facts and Figures: Quick Facts,” Alzheimer’s Association, accessed September 2019
2 “Alzheimer’s and Dementia,” Alzheimer’s Association, accessed September 2019
3 “Causes and Risk Factors,” Alzheimer’s Association, accessed September 2019
4 “Women and Alzheimer’s: Quick Facts,” Alzheimer’s Association, accessed September 2019
5 “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s,” Alzheimer’s Association, accessed September 2019
6 “What Are the Financial Needs of Family Caregivers?” LIMRA, June 2019
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