At Home Instead, we see older adults affected by dementia every day. Knowing how to care for people living with dementia and providing support for their families is in our DNA. In fact, we even created a memory-care training program for our Caregivers. It’s all about caring for individuals with the dignity and respect they deserve, honoring who they were before the disease and keeping them safe and calm in their own homes.
Our commitment doesn’t end there. We not only want to care for those living with dementia, we want to have an impact on identifying treatment and – someday – finding a cure for the disease. That’s why our founder, Paul Hogan, is an active member of the World Dementia Council, which was created to fight the disease following the G8 Dementia Summit in 2013.
At the end of last year, the council issued its five-year progress report, Defeating Dementia: the road to 2025. While I urge you to read the full report, I pulled out five highlights here that I hope might spark your interest in joining us as advocates to fight this disease.
1. Today, there are 50 million people in the world living with dementia and that number is on course to triple by 2050. Let’s put this in perspective: 50 million is 10 million more people than live in California, our most populous state. And when 50 million users of a certain social-networking site were hacked, the news was everywhere. Why can’t we turn up the volume just as loud on dementia?
2. Dementia is significantly underdiagnosed. According to the report, diagnosis rates are under 50 percent in many high-income countries. One reason for this is the stigma attached to the disease. If you’re having cognitive issues, it’s important to tell your doctor sooner rather than later. Per the report, evidence shows that people who get diagnosed have a better quality of life than those who don’t.
3. Dementia can’t be prevented or effectively treated. The only way to discover effective treatments is through research, which requires funding. The good news, as the report details, is that the U.S. government has increased funding for dementia research from $562 million in 2013 to $2.3 billion for the 2019 fiscal year. Still, the report concludes, funding must continue to increase around the world to advance treatment efforts.
4. Technology has the potential to improve care and support. The report specifically highlights an app called GameChanger, which features memory and thinking games. It actually tests parts of the brain that are likely affected in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. According to the report, this kind of innovation could change how dementia is diagnosed.
5. A dementia diagnosis is not a death sentence. With support from family and caregivers, people living with dementia can live meaningful lives. If you need support in caring for a loved one, Home Instead offers free resources at HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com and the Remember for Alzheimer’s Families Facebook page.
Dementia is not a disease that happens just because we get old. Like other diseases, it’s something that afflicts people because of their genes or other factors. It’s also a progressive illness that may take up to 20 years before its symptoms take hold. So, while many people might not know they have it until they’ve reached a certain age, we’re not all destined to get dementia if we’re lucky enough to live a long life.
I hope reading this inspires you to act – for yourself, for a family member, for humankind. We need to erase the stigma attached to dementia by getting it out in the open. Let’s talk about it – not just with our aging parents or grandparents, but with our children and other young people in our lives. Let’s get informed and get involved. Read the World Dementia Council’s report, advocate for increased government funding and volunteer with the local Alzheimer’s Association in Santa Rosa. Built a Walk team or have your friends, co-workers and family all sign advocacy cards to help get the funding we desperately need to make strides in this movement. You can request these from the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Association in Sonoma County can be reached at : 707- 573-1210 and their web address is www.alz.org/norcal. What else can we do to fight this disease? Let’s get creative. I want to hear from you.
I wanted to share this piece with you today. The author is Jeff Huber, President and Chief Executive Officer of Home Instead Senior Care Inc. My hope is that those reading this feel support if they are on this dementia journey and enlightenment if they think they aren’t affected by this horrible disease, because whether you realize it or not- we all are affected in one way or another directly by Alzheimer’s disease.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime