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Angel Care Nurse Registry is based in Florida, arguably one of the largest retirement destinations in the country. As such we see more than an average number of elderly people. Many are independent, healthy and vibrant but the levels of those who are experiencing cognitive decline are growing. There is some degree of support structure offered by the medical profession but it is expensive. The majority of care falls to family members and particularly to the women in the family. In many cases people will have just gotten their children settled after college when an aging parent will require more assistance. The financial, physical, mental and emotional strain can weaken a family member care giver. Statistics show a financial loss as well as a loss to their health can complicate an already stressful situation. The care gets incrementally more demanding so people slowly adapt to the changing needs of their declining loved one. Before they know it they are overwhelmed and experiencing strain in many areas of their life.
The 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report shows hard data about these very personal issues. Below are some things we pulled out to highlight starting with their definition. “Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is also caused by other diseases and conditions. It is characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other cognitive skills that affects a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. This decline occurs because nerve cells (neurons) in parts of the brain involved in cognitive function have been damaged and no longer function normally. In Alzheimer’s disease, neuronal damage eventually affects parts of the brain that enable a person to carry out basic bodily functions such as walking and swallowing. People in the final stages of the disease are bed-bound and require around-the-clock care. Alzheimer’s disease is ultimately fatal.”
Changes in the brain are the basic reason this disease progresses, according to the same document; “A healthy adult brain has about 100 billion neurons, each with long, branching extensions. These extensions enable individual neurons to form connections with other neurons. At such connections, called synapses, information flows in tiny bursts of chemicals that are released by one neuron and detected by a receiving neuron. The brain contains about 100 trillion synapses. They allow signals to travel rapidly through the brain’s neuronal circuits, creating the cellular basis of memories, thoughts, sensations, emotions, movements and skills. The accumulation of the protein beta-amyloid (called beta-amyloid plaques) outside neurons and the accumulation of an abnormal form of the protein tau (called tau tangles) inside neurons are two of several brain changes believed to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. In Alzheimer’s disease, information transfer at synapses begins to fail, the number of synapses declines, and neurons eventually die.”
Use it or lose it
Studies show a lifetime of healthy eating, exercise and mental stimulation can make a difference. Additionally having a formal education plays a role in a healthy brain too. “People with fewer years of formal education are at higher risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias than those with more years of formal education” This is an interesting statistic and speaks to the advantages of being a life long learner. Also those with lower levels of education may have jobs that are less mentally stimulating. All factors accumulate to create the conditions where the mind is not challenged and so is susceptible to becoming diminished. Curiosity, an investigative mind, and the process of obtaining and retaining information at an early age leads many to continue those habits over their lifetime, thus benefitting their mind in later years.
“Individuals who have experienced repeated head injuries, such as boxers, football players, and combat veterans are at higher risk of dementia.” With this statistic people can now make more informed choices about the activities they engage in or have their children participate in. Football is a popular sport for the pre-teen to professional player. Some parents are choosing other sports to get their children involved in that have fewer potential problems.
Statistics regarding the disease
1) One in nine people age 65 and older (11 percent) has Alzheimer’s disease.
2) Close to one-third of people age 85 and older (32 percent) have Alzheimer’s.
3) Eighty-one percent of people who have Alzheimer’s disease are age 75 or older.
4) Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
5) Older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
6) Alzheimer’s disease is officially listed as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Statistics regarding unpaid caregivers
1) Eighty-five percent of unpaid help provided to older adults in the United States is from family members. Friends may provide unpaid caregiving as well.
2) In 2014, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of informal (that is, unpaid) assistance, a contribution to the nation valued at $217.7 billion.
3) The three primary reasons caregivers decide to provide care and assistance to a person with Alzheimer’s disease are:
(A) the desire to keep a family member/friend at home (65 percent),
(B) proximity to the person with dementia (48 percent) and
(C) the caregiver’s perceived obligation as a spouse or partner (38 percent).
4) Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women.
5) Over two-thirds of caregivers are married, living with a partner or in a long-term relationship.
6) Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
This report can help us understand the reasons, resources and personal cost surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. Information is power and the information changes continually as new research reveals new data for analysis. To date the theory of maintaining a healthy diet, exercise and being a life learner is supported by the findings in this report. A healthy diet is full of fresh fruits and vegetable, low sugar, low or no processed foods and includes calorie restriction. Having TV dinners every night may be an easy way to fill up but is not going to help your heart, mind or body. Other studies show an emotional component as well. Those who feel needed and useful are less likely to develop symptoms. Do you ever wonder why the Supreme Court Justices live so long as a group? It seems their important and prestigious work could have something to do with it. Aging has many complications and every person will manage them differently. A positive attitude and healthy choices go a long way.
Brought to you by Angel Care Nurse Registry.