Is dementia awareness on the rise?

Posted on November 11, 2010 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

Two descriptive articles about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia appeared recently in the New York Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

In the New York Times Op-Ed piece, retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor and others discuss the reality that Alzheimer’s Disease could be the single greatest threat to the health of Americans in the future.

In this article, and in our previous blogs, statistics are cited which support this claim. The first Boomers will begin turning 65 next year, and over the next 19 years, 79 million of them will reach this age.

Given that the likelihood of an individual getting Alzheimer’s Disease doubles every 5 years after the age of 65, the reality is we have a big problem on our hands and should be mobilizing our resources to address it.  Alzheimer’s research is woefully underfunded by the federal government when compared to other diseases. Unfortunately, these statistics are not new to those who work in the field of Alzheimer’s research or by those who are impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease. To date, it seems to be an issue ignored.

The second article brings Alzheimer’s Disease a little closer to home and discusses the reality of the dementia disorder.  (Alzheimer’s is the cause of about 60% of all dementia diagnosis. This means 40% of dementia is caused by other diseases or situations.)

According to the article, research shows that one of the first signs of impending dementia is an inability to understand money and credit, contracts and agreements.  In other words, before we or our spouse or our children know we have dementia, we might mismanage our family’s finances to the point of poverty and not know we are doing it.

In this scenario, dementia is impacting the patient, the spouse, the children, the grandchildren, and the community in which they live.  This reality cannot and will not be ignored for long.

This has become such a concern that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has met with financial services companies and the Alzheimer’s Association to formulate guidelines on how to deal with clients who may be in this situation.

As Americans begin pulling our heads out of the sand on this topic, we can all agree that we need a cure for all causes of dementia (with Alzheimer’s Disease being the primary cause). The sooner the better.

This is going to be a multi-year process, and we need to begin right away. In the meantime, we need to recognize that dementia is like other diseases/disorders we have fought: it is real, it is increasing, it is financially and emotionally devastating, and until there is a cure, we need to identify protocols and services to improve the quality of life of those impacted.

So, we have short-term goals and longer-term goals. At The Patterson Foundation, we are interested in addressing the short-term goals of creating opportunities to identify and implement protocols and services to improve quality of life. We are reaching out to anyone interested in collaborating on this topic.

Please share any ideas you might have.

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