A new report released this week by the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that one in three adults over age 65 dies of Alzheimer’s Disease or other types of dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. While the study clarifies that dying with the disease is not the same as dying from it, it can definitely speed up the process.
Also to be remembered in this discussion is early onset dementia, which strikes people younger than age 65: 4% of all cases.
And so, on this first day of Spring 2013, let us all live in the now. Accept that the present day is truly a present: A gift. Be grateful for it.
I always thought dementia was the same as Alzheimer’s. It’s not, really. The Association explains that dementia broadly describes a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type, steadily erasing memory and clear thinking.
In all forms, dementia can affect treatment for other illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease. In my grandmother’s case, the doctor said her body was so healthy that she might live to 100. But, as the Alzheimer’s progressed, she literally forgot how to swallow food. Our family had requested no intervention, such as a feeding tube, which once inserted is legally almost impossible to remove. Did she die of Alzheimer’s? No. And, yes.
The new data shows that 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia right now. Those numbers are expected to triple by 2050, up to 13.8 million.
In a previous post, it was noted that media coverage on stress faced by the ‘sandwich generation’ – adults who are responsible for both children and aging parents – can make caregiving adults without children feeling that their stresses are perceived as easy.
Truth is, no matter what their own life situation looks like, caregivers of dementia patients watch their loved ones slip away day by day. Grief starts long before the patient dies, and each caregiver experiences the same pain.