Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the terrible effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Would it surprise you to know that according to a recent study funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 7 people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia lives alone? And most are women? As a woman and caregiver for someone with dementia, the thought of a senior with this type of impairment trying to cope on their own is … unthinkable.
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s it is a challenge for people to maintain daily activities like managing their medications, remembering to eat and bathe regularly or pay bills on time. As this disease progressed, people suffering from Alzheimer’s are often unable to perform simple tasks like remembering how to prepare food, such as what goes inside of a sandwich vs. what goes outside. How to step into a shower stall or turn the water on and off, or managing the complexity of tying a shoe for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s is confounding. In the last stages of Alzheimer’s they may not be able to identify who or where they are anymore and may be found sitting or out wandering in a daze.
So if the unthinkable happens and you or I or someone we love joins the estimated one of over 5 million people in this country that live with Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of cognitive impairment, how do we make sure we are not that 1 in 7, facing it alone? To address this concern, I would like to underscore the importance of:
- Advanced planning: Identify a power of attorney and incorporate long-term goals into financial planning, write or locate an Advanced Directive, consider your/ your loved one’s living options and caregiver sources.
- Educating yourself about the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. Address fears and stigma associated with mental and cognitive limitations so treatments and care plans are not left until it is too late.
- Becoming more involved in decision-making for your family or community. Start talking about it! Volunteer through the Alzheimer’s Association, Meals on Wheels or other outreach programs, Contact your local representatives and ask for funding allocations go toward Alzheimer’s research, home health care options and mental health care coverage through insurance.
1. Alexander, Brian. “1 in 7 With Alzheimer’s Lives Alone, Study Finds.” 2012
2. “2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures”