Resources & Articles

Alzheimer’s and You

by Lisa Vogel

Does your mother remember your last visit?  Is your father having a hard time remembering directions, phone messages, or doctor’s appointments?  Are you frightened about what this forgetfulness could mean for a parent and for yourself?

You are not alone.  During the month of November, National Alzheimer’s Disease and Caregiver’s Awareness Month, take a moment to consider the future:  The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s in 2013– a number that is expected to triple as the baby boomer generation ages. In Maryland alone, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to increase from 78,000 patients in 2000 to more than 100,000 patients in 2025.  There is a strong possibility that you or a family member will be either an Alzheimer’s patient or caregiver in the years ahead.

The effects of Alzheimer’s can be devastating as patients lose their memories and identities, eventually unable to feed or bathe themselves, and family caregivers are stretched thin to provide needed care for their loved ones. Alzheimer’s patients require varying degrees of attention and care, but those with severe memory loss or a tendency to wander and get lost often need 24-hour care.  This uncurable, progressive disease takes a high toll on caregivers as well. More than 60 percent of surveyed dementia caregivers rate their emotional stress as high or very high and more than one-third reported symptoms of depression. Many ultimately turn to alcohol or sleeping pills to relieve stress and anxiety.

Clearly, more people need to be educated about the realities of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, and families must take steps to ensure that caregivers receive the support they need.  First, families should arrange schedules to provide caregivers much-needed breaks. Every family member can become active in the Alzheimer’s community, including the Maryland chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association, which offers some 50 support groups to caregivers throughout the state.  Additionally, family members must encourage caregivers to keep regular doctor appointments and maintain their own health.

It is also important to plan ahead. Families and couples of all ages need to review family care plans and identify the need for long-term care insurance–the only type of insurance that provides funding for custodial care. By planning ahead and truly understanding the requirements of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you can increase peace of mind for your family and reduce the potential burden placed on family members and close friends.

 Lisa Vogel is the owner of The Lisa Vogel Agency, a home health care agency providing custodial care on a live-in or hourly basis for clients who require long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, or hospice care.

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