November is National Family Caregiver's Month and National Alzheimer's Month. What a joy it is for me to see the spotlight on these issues!
During my two decades of concentrated elder care for my seven elders, there wasn't much in the press about caregiving issues, and there wasn't even much on Alzheimer's or dementia.
There was a little help available, which I found as I stumbled along, but not much direction. My elderly friend Joe dislocated his shoulder in a fall, and throughout the medical process that followed, I found out about some in-home services, which I later made use of for my uncle. I also learned about personal alarms that the elder can wear so they can call for help when they fall or experience distress. I couldn't have kept my elders in their homes as long as I did without those alarms. But this information was just surfacing, and there weren't many choices available for the caregiver.
Respite care? Not in those days. My most active caregiving was before the enactment of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000 which designated some funding for respite care for family caregivers. Besides, I wasn't educated enough to make use of respite care once it did come along.
When I first tried to publish my book "Minding Our Elders," I was told by agents and publishers, "We love your writing and this is a beautiful book, but no one is interested in these issues." I guess I was ahead of my time, because now "these issues" are everywhere.
So, we've come a long way. Elder care is a huge national issue and Alzheimer's disease is making headlines, often on a daily basis. I'm thrilled with the progress.
As our population ages, we will see more people affected by the mind-robbing disease that is Alzheimer's. Other dementias will be more prominent, as well. As people live longer, because of better medical care for other illnesses, more of us will live to develop Alzheimer‘s disease and other dementias. The huge numbers of baby boomers that we hear about daily will start to become our elders. The numbers thrown at us are frightening.
The good part of this is awareness. Awareness leads to pressure for research. Awareness leads to publicity which leads to fundraising. Awareness also helps the caregivers and those who are afflicted by the disease feel less isolated.
Bringing what was once called "senile dementia" out into the open helps us all. All types of dementia need research, however I feel that research in one area will yield knowledge in all areas. So, concentrating on Alzheimer's disease will help vascular dementia. It will help Pick's disease and Lewy Body dementia. The more we know about the brain, and how it functions, the more we can do to help people who have dementia now and we can eventually find ways to reverse or even prevent all types of dementia.
So scream it from the rooftops! Get it out into the open. National Alzheimer's Month is a time to make everyone aware that dementia can and will be conquered. Not soon enough for many, but it will happen. Get people worked up about this disease and the people who care for those who suffer from it. Because putting dementia issues smack dab in front of the public, in every way possible, will help create pressure for a cure.
So celebrate awareness during National Alzheimer's Month, so that eventually we will be able to celebrate new discoveries that will prevent, or at least cure, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Published On: November 01, 2007