The healthcare tsunami that is looming over the U.S. became a front-page news story on Friday when national media reported that mortalities from Alzheimer’s have risen 55% since 1999. And more patients are dying at home rather than in hospitals, which reflects a greater burden being made on caregivers.
CNN, the New York Times, Scientific American and scores of other news outlets cited a new report by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Georgia State University, which released these figures:
- 93,541 Americans died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, an increase of 55% compared to 1999;
- In that same period, the percentage of Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S. who died in a nursing-home or hospital setting dropped by more than 50%: from nearly 15% in 1999 to less than 7% in 2014;
- At-home deaths increased from nearly 14% in 1999 to about 25% in 2014.
- By 2050, Alzheimer’s is expected to affect 13.8 million U.S. adults, up from 5.5 million in 2017. Translation: Deaths from the disease are going to rise 150%.
The media also broadcast the report’s conclusions that these multiple trends are hitting caregivers with hurricane-like force. Continue Reading
One of the healthiest habits that my father picked up when he was an Alzheimer’s patient in Lima (2011-2012) was drinking agua fresca throughout the day. Agua fresca, or “fresh water” as it is translated into English, is a popular drink throughout Latin America, but a bit of research on my part turned up an interesting fact: The Peruvian version that my father consumed day in, day out, differs in several ways from the agua fresca served elsewhere in Latin America. And those differences are what I’d like to explain for North American readers because this drink can benefit elders, their caregivers and people in general.Continue Reading
If you’re reading this, you may be facing the terrifying predicament my husband and I found ourselves in in 2011: My elderly father had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and we had very little money to cover the gap between his monthly pension and what he would need for long-term care. To put it bluntly, we were scared out of our wits.
So we came up with an unorthodox solution: We moved my father from northern Florida to Lima, Peru, and cared for him there. Yes, Peru, South America.
He lived in Peru’s historic capital for sixteen months, until his death in July 2012, and he got excellent, personalized care that far surpassed anything he could have gotten in the United States.
In other posts, I’ll get into how and why we chose Lima (we were living there at the time). What most people want to know first are the numbers, so here they are.Continue Reading
David Cassidy was the television version of the cool older brother I never had. Hearing that he has dementia feels like some protective cone over my childhood has been wrenched away.
As an only child growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I often felt out of place in working class New Jersey. Most of the families on my street had four or five kids, and at school some kids used to call me a “lonely only” or make snide remarks about my being “spoiled.” I loudly told them to shut up, but part of me felt bad about being different. I sometimes fantasized about having lots of siblings, but mainly my daydreams centered on one thing: Having an older brother who would protect me.
I imagined this perfect big brother beating the shit out of Donald Schmidt when he punched my arm in the coatroom in fourth grade. (Instead, I challenged Donald to a fight outside and got punched in the face.) I imagined this big brother pushing the junior high kids off the bridge when they threw lit cigarettes into my bookbag. (The cigarettes made brown burn holes.) When a gang of nasty seventh-graders ganged up on my friend Judy Chen and called her a “Chink,” I envisioned my big brother grabbing them by their hoodies and hauling them off to the principal’s office like some kind of civil-rights-era Sir Lancelot.
A few years later, I found myself wishing for a cool older brother who would bring his guy friends over to the house so I could get to know them.
Back in elementary school, my go-to role model for an older brother was Keith Patridge, as played by David Cassidy on The Partridge Family. He was relaxed, funny, confident—the de facto father figure in a household run by his widowed mother. Continue Reading
Back in the 1970s, David Cassidy became a teen idol as the lead singer of the Partridge Family, a made-for-TV pop group that spawned a number of Top 10 hits including “I Think I Love You” (1970), which went to No. 1. The show was hugely popular for several years, and Patridge Family albums sold millions of copies, especially among pre-teens like me and my friends.
Cassidy continued to act and sing throughout his adult life, but he never achieved the same level of success as he had when he was playing Keith Partridge.
And now he has revealed that he has dementia. He struggled with alcohol abuse for years, but went into rehab. Then he forgot the lyrics at a show and didn’t want fans to think he had relapsed. So he decided to tell them the truth.
His mom, Evelyn Ward, had Alzheimer’s.
I’m very sad. More than I can say.
Here he is singing, “I Think I Love You.” Girls used to scream so much when he performed that no one could hear the music.
So today the Alzheimer’s Association released its 2016 report on the disease, and the news doesn’t look good. As reported by CNN and Forbes, we can expect that by 2015, the number of Americans 65 and up with Alzheimer’s will reach 7.1 million; that is an increase of nearly 40 percent from 5.2 million who had it in 2016. Jump forward to 2050, and the view is even bleaker: Probably 13.8 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s, nearly triple the rate of today.
Why the soaring rise? Americans are living into their 80s and beyond, and the older you get, the greater your risk of contracting Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
There is no cure for the disease. No treatment. No early intervention. Gulp.
What we have on our hands is a crisis, Continue Reading
Old people can suprise you. My father sure did. At age 86, newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and unable to care for himself, he agreed to go to Peru to live with me and my husband. He boarded a plane in Orlando and said goodbye to his house, his dog, his country — every trace of the person he had been. From the moment his plane touched down in Jorge Chavez Airport, his life was never the same. Alzheimer’s + a foreign country + a completely unknown language (Spanish). His new reality was, to say the least, disorienting.
Some elderly people might have wanted to kick the bucket right then and there. And at first, my father did. “Why are you feeding me?” he asked. “Go away. I’m dead.” He went on a hunger strike. He barely drank. For days this went on, then we hooked him up to an IV and pumped some fluids into him. An intelligent doctor prescribed an appetite enhancer, an antidepressant. One day my father showed up at the dinner table: “What’s to eat? I’m starving.”
My father had nursing aides to care for him at our house. They were sweet-tempered, patient souls who didn’t speak a word of English. When he took off all his clothes and threw them in the corner, they calmly picked them up and held them out. “Mister John, put them on, please,” they said in Spanish. Take your pastillas [pills]. Drink your jugo [juice]. Day after day after day. Thank god for the language barrier. They had no idea he called one of them “the fat one” and thought that the small, androgynous aide with glasses was a man.
Fast forward six months: My father is sitting side by side with his nurse, on the couch, watching a telenovela. A drop of mucus hangs from his nose. She glances over, reaches into her sweater sleeve, and wipes the drop off with a tissue that she keeps there for for that purpose. Then she checks her wristwatch.
“Meester John, sus pastillas.”
“Quieres algo a tomar?”
“Si,” he says.
“Jugo de manzana?”
We all thought his story was over. But as he continued to show us, right up to the end, a new chapter was writing itself. The true wine of astonishment, indeed.
Last night’s presidential debate was heavy on vitriol, insults and threats but managed to address a few of the issues that this nation faces. Unfortunately, confronting the Alzheimer’s epidemic wasn’t one of them.
Still, we do have information on the two candidates’positions on funding for Alzheimer’s research. Donal tRump says that he strongly supports funding it–“It’s a total top priority for me“–but does not offer specifics. The Republican platform does advocate for research for several diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
Hillary Clinton has said that, if elected president, she would dedicate $2 billion per year over a decade to promote a cure for Alzheimer’s, Bloomberg reports. On December 22, 2015, in Iowa, Clinton announced a plan to cure the disease by 2025:
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death right now in our country. For every other of the Top 10 causes of death, we have treatments, we have means of prevention—we even have some cures. But for Alzheimer’s, we have no treatment, no prevention and no cure. So for me, the bottom line is if we’re the kind of nation that cares for its citizens and supports families, respects our elders and takes care of our neighbors, then we’ve got work to do. And we need to do better when it comes to diseases like Alzheimer’s
The plan is meant to steam an “epidemic that could single-handedly crush Medicare, Medicaid,” says a neurologist who was featured at the Iowas event, adding that Alzheimer’s is “an unmet medical need of the greatest type.”
Clinton’s website details her plan, including:
- commit to preventing, effectively treating and making a cure possible for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025;
- invest $2 billion a year in research for Alzheimer’s and related disorders, which is the level leading researchers have determined is necessary to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s and make a cure possible by 2025, and which is higher than the $936 million appropriated for FY 2016 and $1.4 billion proposed for FY 2017;
- make sure that funding is reliable and consistent so researchers can work steadily toward effective treatment;
- appoint the most qualified research and health experts possible to oversee this ambitious initiative;
- make it easier for families and individuals with Alzheimer’s to get the care they need by having Medicare cover comprehensive Alzheimer’s care-planning sessions and the cost of properly documenting every diagnosis and care plan; and
- help protect loved ones who wander by reauthorizing the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program to assist in finding individuals who are reported missing.
Read more about Clinton’s plan here.
I’m a details person. I’m with her.
With just a few hours to go before the second U.S. presidential debate, you can add your vote for Alzheimer’s to be added to the debate questions.
“What’s your plan to tackle the large public health crisis, Alzheimer’s disease?”
Go to Open Debate and vote now!
It started around the time my mother died, in 2004 or 2005. My elderly father began eating out more–Boston Market, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Chinese food–and he’d bring home the condiments packets and store them in a drawer in the kitchen.
Ketchup packets. Mustard packets. Soy sauce. Duck sauce.
Soon they filled several drawers. I’d find them crammed in the fridge, in the cutlery drawer.
It became a joke with me and my husband when we’d come over to see my father — the neverending packets. We’d go to get a drink from the fridge, and they’d spill out of the top cubby where you’re supposed to keep eggs.
“Hey, Dad,” I joked, “Don’t you think you have enough ketchup packets?”
“Oh, Barb, there’s no sense throwing out good food,” he’d say, peevishly.
This went on for years. I just thought it was a product of his being a child of the Great Depression.
It must have in 2008 or so when I noticed that he wasn’t just hoarding ketchups. Continue Reading