Thursday, August 16, 2012

The epidemic among us

Jessica and her husband are worried about their elderly neighbors, Bill and Rachel.

Living alone and in their 80s, Bill and Rachel have been staples in the neighborhood for years.

Rachel, who is a beautiful woman and prides herself on her appearance, has appeared outside her house each day wearing the same stained dress. When talking to neighbors, Rachel looks at them with fear in her eyes and says that she can no longer think straight.

Bill, who is in great physical shape, received a warning from his golf buddy: “No more driving or I take away your keys.” Bill has been running red lights and getting lost on his way home.

Bill and Rachel’s son Ted lives in the Midwest and just came home for a visit.

A few of the neighbors expressed their concerns to Ted, and after observing burned pots and unpaid bills Ted extended his trip. He is scheduling doctor appointments and looking for resources to help.

Bill, Rachel and their son Ted are part of the two fastest growing groups in America today—those with dementia and those caring for a loved one with dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in two people over the age of 85 will get the disease. In Ventura County alone, we have about 26,000 seniors age 85 and older, and if the statistics hold true 13,000 of them will experience dementia. By 2050, the number of Ventura County seniors age 85-plus is expected to exceed 95,000, which means more than 47,000 residents will have dementia.

What’s most shocking is that 50 percent of those with dementia are not aware they have it. Like Bill and Rachel, it goes undiagnosed until someone steps in or things become unmanageable.

As Ted begins his journey as a caregiver for loved ones with dementia he is far from alone. There are 15 million Alzheimer’s caregivers in the U.S. today, a number which equals the population of Illinois.

Alzheimer’s caregivers like Ted will provide more than 17 billion hours of care this year, often suffering physically, mentally and emotionally.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is often a life-changer for families. It’s not something they plan for or seek out resources for in advance. What makes it harder for adult children like Ted is looking for help in an unfamiliar community.

It’s important for everyone to have a place to turn to in this complex world of dementia. Jessica, who had concerns about her elderly neighbors; Rachel, who was questioning her thinking; Bill’s friend, who did not want him driving; and Ted, who is searching for resources and council, all have one place to turn right here in our community.

For 38 years, Senior Concerns has been meeting the needs of seniors and their caregivers in Ventura County.

Senior Concerns is a one-stop shop for families in crisis, providing an Alzheimer’s resource center, case management, an adult day program for those with moderate and severe dementia, referrals, advocacy and support groups. Most programs are free, and scholarships are available for those in financial need.

To learn more about resources in your area go to

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Tags: dementia,caregivers,Senior Concerns,National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Categories: Elder HealthNumber of views: 1752

Tags: dementia

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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