The most common form of dementia to affect people is Alzheimer’s. September has been designated World Alzheimer’s Month to help shine the light on the challenges of living with and caring for a loved one that has Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that, as it progresses, eventually affects a person’s capacity to remember and think. Ultimately, it deprives a person of the ability to live independently. Even though Alzheimer’s seems to be a common disease among our aging population, it is not a normal part of getting older. It is not known for sure what causes Alzheimer’s yet, but most likely includes many factors, such as age-related changes in the brain, genetics, environment, and personal lifestyle.
Here are some facts and figures for Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States from the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.
- 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
- These caregivers provide an estimated 18.6 billion hours valued at nearly $244 billion.
- In 2020, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $305 billion.
- Between 2000 and 2018, deaths from heart disease have decreased 7.8% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 146%.
Presently, there are five drugs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved that are used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. There is no known cure, but ongoing worldwide research is looking for new treatments to slow down or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers think a successful treatment will include a combination of medications like treatments now used for many cancers and AIDS. With our population aging and the number of people with Alzheimer’s growing, it is critical that we continue the fight to find a cure.
But there is some positive news. There is significant evidence that the risk of getting Alzheimer’s may be reduced by making adjustments to our lifestyle. Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — may negatively impact your cognitive health.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruits.
- Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns.
- Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you.
For more tips to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline, check out 10 Ways to Love Your Brain from the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s never too late to start to enjoy a healthy lifestyle and improve the quality of our life.
Caring for a loved one that has Alzheimer’s is challenging and can become overwhelming. Approximately 83% of those caring for older adults are family members or friends. Almost half of these caregivers are providing care are for someone who is living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
By Your Side is here to be a resource for you. We have years of experience helping to make difficult situations easier with our guidance and through our compassionate and experienced in-home caregivers.
Please contact us if you are ready to start the conversation about memory care for your loved one.