While always a sobering overview, I believe it is important to review the annual analysis that the Alzheimer’s Association releases.
Some important takeaways:
- More than 6 millions Americans are living with Alzheimer’s
- Over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias
- 1 in 3 American seniors die with Alzheimer’s or other dementia
- This year, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $355 billion
- The value of the care unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers provide is $257 billion
One other important statistic to note is the racial disparity in care. Discrimination in the health care setting can prevent or delay people getting the care they need. Half of Black Americans report such discrimination. Over 40 percent of Native Americans reported discrimination. Over a third of Hispanic and Asian Americans reported discrimination. I would also add to this the discrimination that women face in healthcare settings. Discrimination can take many forms, including a doctor not taking complaints of pain as seriously and assuming a symptom is emotional vs. physical in nature. I remember my own mother suffering at the hands of doctors who did not take her cancer pain seriously, instead assuming she was drug seeking.
As caregivers, we must be vocal and tireless advocates when faced with such discrimination. Don’t be afraid to ask for a different doctor if you are uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the care being provided. I’ve read many accounts from adult children who sought treatment for their elder parents with signs of dementia but the doctors shrugged off symptoms as the elder was able to present well for the duration of the appointment. Be persistent. While there is no miracle treatment for Alzheimer’s or other dementias, there are medications and treatments which may help in the earlier stages. That is why receiving a correct and timely diagnosis is crucial.