THE SILVER TSUNAMI

August 1, 2011 | By More

Alzheimer’s disease has been nicknamed the “silver tsunami.” Like a tidal wave that destroys everything in its wake, there is no cure for this degenerative brain disorder that affects seniors. And, with thousands of baby boomers turning 65 every day, it may only get worse.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 5.4 million Americans today suffer from this disease, 96 percent of which are over the age of 65. By age 85, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease reaches nearly 50 percent.

Caregivers and families of Alzheimer’s patients are at risk financially and emotionally. The national tab for caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is estimated at $100 billion annually; the average family in Arkansas will spend a minimum of $18,500 up to more than $50,000 per year to care for their loved one.

While long-term care facilities are available, they are expensive and studies show the best place for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is in a familiar setting. Consequently many families choose to care for their loved one at home.

Primary caregivers, often family members, are frequently stressed by the patient’s bizarre behavior and constant need for close supervision. Burn-out is common. Alzheimer’s disease costs U.S. businesses more than $60 billion a year, stemming from lost productivity and absenteeism by primary caregivers, and insurance costs.

On a five-point scale where five is a great deal of emotional stress, 41 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers rate their stress as a 4 or 5, compared with 31 percent of all other caregivers.

Finances are an issue as in-home care for a person with Alzheimer’s can be costly. There are several options to consider when financing care and many of them are to help financially challenged families to be able to afford care, said Wanda Everett of Home Instead Senior Care in Conway.

One family who recently benefitted from a “caregiver grant” provided by Alzheimer’s Arkansas and other agencies is the Lucas/ McDaniel family. Mrs. Seely Lucas got an in-home respite grant for her mother, Mrs. Myra McDaniel to help care for McDaniel’s husband.

“Respite care” is a short-term break for the caregiver. Respite care may be provided in the home, adult care center, nursing home or assisted living facility.

“I appreciated the calm demeanor of the liaison from Home Instead Senior Care. The calm and confident approach played an important role in the decision making process when it came to the care for my parents. Just knowing their individual needs are taken care of, that my dad is in good hands, and that my mom can get out of the house to do the things she needs to do is huge.”

Caregiver, Laura Wimberly of Home Instead Senior Care said, “Knowing Mrs. McDaniel can get a much needed break is wonderful. She can go to the grocery store or to lunch with her friends without worry. She also gets help with the housework while a caregiver is there.”

“And, she can be confident Mr. McDaniel will have his needs met while she is out. All of these things will decrease the amount of stress Mrs. McDaniel feels and will help to keep her healthier as well.”

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