You’ve seen the inspiring T-shirts. “I’m a cancer survivor” or “I’m a heart attack survivor”. I’m in search of one that says “I’m an Alzheimer’s survivor”.
The reason there isn’t one is that no one survives Alzheimer’s. The disease has no cure, no way to slow it’s debilitating effect on the brain and body – and the disease is growing at breakneck speed.
The 76.4 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are turning 65 at a rate of approximately 10,000 a day. The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, which means the number of people developing the disease will continue to rise to levels far beyond anything we’ve imagined.
The worldwide statistics are even more staggering and downright frightening. The fact that Alzheimer’s is touching more and more lives each day reminds us of the crippling effect on the financial, emotional and spiritual lives of families, not to mention the overwhelming burden on an already broken healthcare system.
Millions of families have to deal with the devastation and helplessness of a loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Their stories are varied, but certainly there is a common thread of endless frustration, guilt and exhaustion.
Underneath and often unnoticed, there is a knot in the hearts of caregivers. Grieving the loss of the person they once knew and moving to acceptance of today’s reality is often crippling. Role reversal for adult children and spouses is neither easy or natural.
The fact remains that currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Research is critical, but right now – today – we need hope for those living with dementia and their care partners.
Thanks to person centered care initiatives, quality training and a growing network of support services for families, we are turning the corner. Is it happening fast enough? Most definitely not, but with growing awareness, advocacy and education, changes for the better are taking place every day.
Senior care leaders must invest in quality initiatives that improve the culture for those who live in, work and visit their communities. The fact is clear – elder care is fast becoming about dementia care.
It’s in our hands to change the story!
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute, whose mission is to create transformative change for an aging world by developing and delivering cutting edge training and education for senior care, healthcare, non-profits, and the educational community.