His First Year


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You may be asking yourself, "So what?  Why should this interest me?"  Regardless of whether you are currently providing care for a loved one stricken with Alzheimer's Disease or not, age-related dementia and care-giving are huge issues – ones that will become even greater as the baby boomer generation ages into and through the retirement age.

How big a problem?  From pages 16 & 17 of the 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report:

The number of Americans surviving into their 80s and 90s and beyond is expected to grow dramatically due to advances in medicine and medical technology, as well as social and environmental conditions.

Additionally, a very large segment of the American population — the baby boom generation — is reaching retirement age.  In fact, the first baby boomers are reaching age 65 this year.

By 2030, the segment of the U.S. population aged 65 years and older is expected to double, and the estimated 71 million older Americans will make up approximately 20 percent of the total population.

As the number of older Americans grows rapidly, so too will the numbers of new and existing cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

  • In 2000, there were an estimated 411,000 new (incident) cases of Alzheimer’s disease.  For 2010, that number was estimated to be 454,000 (a 10 percent increase); by 2030, it is projected to be 615,000 (50 percent increase from 2000); and by 2050, 959,000 (130 percent increase from 2000).
  • By 2030, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.7 million — a 50 percent increase from the 5.2 million aged 65 and older currently affected.
  • By 2050, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 11 to 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or more effectively treat the disease.

Perhaps the most ominous entry in the report is the one a few paragraphs further down the page:

  • When the first wave of baby boomers reaches age 85 years (2031), an estimated 3.5 million people aged 85 and older will have Alzheimer’s.

That's a pretty hefty chunk of the population.

More and more often, people are finding themselves in situations that don't have a ready-made selection of options available to help them decide what course of action to take in new or different situations.  As more families find themselves in unexpected roles and facing the sometimes herculean task of caring for a loved one stricken with dementia, the need to reach out and find what others have done when they've encountered similar situations is natural.  In this regard, Jim and John found themselves often seen as "unique" – male care-givers in general are somewhat unusual, made even more rare with their respective roles of caring for their mothers-in-law.

As the aging Boomer population begins to add to the number of Alzheimer victims, it is likely that this experience will become far more commonplace.

And that's where this work will hopefully help the most:  providing first-time care-givers who find themselves in unexpected roles with a baseline of experience to draw upon.  The stories offer some basic comparisons, loose guidelines on both what to do and what not to do, and a sense that the care-giver is not alone nor are they traveling a path that no-one has yet traversed.

We aren't the first to have walked this road, and we won't be the last.  We hope that others can benefit from our shared experience.


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