Increase in Alzheimer’s Creates Strain On Caregivers

Here’s a subject I’ve written about before — the increasing number of seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is going to put a huge burden on caregivers over the next 20 years or so.

The topic was covered in a recent article in the Oregon Herald. Here are excerpts:

David Hilfiker knows what’s coming. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so early that he’s had time to tell his family what he wants to happen once forgetfulness turns incapacitating.

“When it’s time to put me in an institution, don’t have me at home and destroy your own life,” said the retired physician, who is still well enough that he blogs about the insidious progress of the disease. “Watching the Lights Go Out,” it’s titled.

Nearly half of all seniors who need some form of long-term care from help at home to full-time care in a facility have dementia, the World Alzheimer Report said Thursday. It’s a staggering problem as the global population ages, placing enormous strain on families who provide the bulk of that care at least early on, and on national economies alike.

Indeed, cognitive impairment is the strongest predictor of who will move into a care facility within the next two years, 7.5 times more likely than people with cancer, heart disease or other chronic ailments of older adults, the report found.

“It’s astonishing,” said Marc Wortmann, executive director of Alzheimer’s Disease International, which commissioned the report and focused on the problems of caregiving. “What many countries try to do is keep people away from care homes because they say that’s cheaper. Yes it’s cheaper for the government or the health system, but it’s not always the best solution.”

And dropping birth rates mean there are fewer children in families to take care of aging parents, too, said Michael Hodin of the Global Coalition on Aging.

“Very shortly there will be more of us over 60 than under 15,” he noted.

Today, more than 35 million people worldwide, including 5 million in the U.S., are estimated to have Alzheimer’s. Barring a medical breakthrough, those numbers are expected to more than double by 2050.

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