Alzheimer's and Baby Boomers
I can’t believe that another year has passed so quickly and last year’s first wave of America’s 78 million Baby Boomers (born 1946 through 1964) are turning SIXTY-ONE this year! And, the next huge wave is right behind turning 60! It’s a big deal because these numbers are unprecedented in our history.
See, the year before the BIG BOOM started (1945) only 2.8 million Americans were born. Well, apparently, a bit too much partying after WWII resulted in 3.4 million bouncing babies in 1946. No one thought the trend would continue very long, but with the prosperity of the times it did--
and for 19 more years! So just think, now every seven seconds for nearly two more decades, a Boomer will hit the major milestone of turning 60 yelling "nooooo!" — kicking and screaming all the way into "older middle-age."
Yep, the flower power generation that vowed to stay young forever naturally is having face-lifts, lipo, Botox, and tummy-tucks in record numbers. They are also having retirement anxiety as they struggle to keep up with and care for the children they decided to have late in life so they wouldn’t disrupt their careers. And, on top of all that, now their elderly parents are getting sick and needing care, but because of modern medicine are living longer than ever.
AND NOW THE BAD NEWS
Since one out of every ten persons by the age of 65 gets some form of dementia (Alzheimer’s accounts for 65%), and nearly one out of every two by the age of 85 (the fastest growing segment of the population) gets it, there are lots of seniors not thinking clearly and tons of Baby Boomers trying to figure out how to manage them on top of everything else–while worrying about getting dementia themselves!
So, we have about four years to figure this dementia stuff out, before the first wave of Boomers start hitting the fan by turning 65 themselves and developing the disease. Did you know there are already 36 million people over the age of 65 in the USA?
I just had a horrible thought: Instead of one in ten getting dementia, since so many Boomers did drugs in the sixties, seventies, etcetera, etcetera… it could be even worse–maybe one out of every five will get dementia… and still be demanding to drive!
And oh-oh, since so many Boomers got divorced, their adult daughter (ok, maybe a son) could have to provide care for a mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, as well as their spouse’s mother, father, stepfather and stepmother. Yikes, she could have as many as eight wacky seniors to care for, along with her own health, husband, children, home, and… a career she loves? Yeah right.
And, you know the Boomers aren’t going to listen to anything the doctors say, unlike most of their parents who still put doctors on a pedestal and do as told. Oh noooo, Boomers are going to question everything and be royal pains in all the doctors’ … you know what!
OK, THE GOOD NEWS
If you want a challenging career that will never have a shortage of clients–go into any aspect of eldercare! Seriously, there is such a shortage of geriatric professionals for the huge numbers that are coming–you will never be out of work.
What–you don’t want to deal with sickness and death everyday? Ohhh, come on. Wouldn’t you like to work with cranky elderly people, their troubled spouses and demanding children day after day? You think it might be too taxing to deal with patients with head-to-toe health problems with dementia on top, who end up dying on you no matter what you do? Ohhh, dealing with Medicare and Medicaid isn’t all that bad! And who wouldn’t want to get paid less than any other specialty of medicine?
So now, can you blame the young new doctors who don’t want to go into this specialty?
JUST THE FACTS MA’AM
In 1998 the entire U.S. only had 9,000 Geriatricians (an MD with a specialty in geriatrics) trained to care for 34 million Americans over age 65. A sobering new statistic reveals the figure has declined to only 6,700 specialists, while 62 million people will be over the age of 65 by 2025!
An estimated 43% of Americans age 65 or older will spend time in a nursing home, and by 2012, 75% over age 65 will require long-term care. A person with Alzheimer’s disease will live an average of eight years and as many as 20 years or more from the first onset of symptoms. An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s now (more than double since 1980), yet millions have not been diagnosed because the earliest signs OFTEN get chalked up to a "normal part of aging."
AND MY POINT IS…
As always: the importance of EARLY diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, because the progression of the disease can be slowed down, delaying full time care!
My heart sinks when I ask people how their elderly parents are doing and often hear, "Oh yeah, my parents are doing real good…just a little dementia and a little memory loss… but hey… that’s normal for their ages… and anyway it’s not really that bad yet." A "little dementia" is like being a "little pregnant!" These conditions always start slowly–you don’t go from normal to having a baby or normal to demented overnight!
So please, if you notice illogical or irrational behaviors, short-term memory loss, any of the Ten Warning Signs: don’t ignore it. Keep track of everything and seek a specialist (even though they are few and far between) sooner than later. The best way to find one is by calling the Alzheimer’s Association (800-272-3900) and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (866-AFA-8484) and ask for their guidance in finding a specialist in your area. Tell them Jacqueline and the HealthCentral Network sent you!
You can learn more about Jacqueline and find information about her book at ElderRage.com.
Published On: January 22, 2007