Will Alzheimer’s Disease Affect Voter Turnout by Seniors?

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by Ray Burow |

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We’re in an election year in the U.S., no news there. If your mail experience is similar to mine, you already are more than aware of this.

A few years ago, a retiring mailman explained to me that election year deliveries are more taxing on his colleagues and him than holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. That was surprising. Think about it: Your mail carrier may deliver more political flyers than Christmas and Valentine’s Day cards and packages. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Candidates usually court senior votes

Candidates try to draw attention to their platforms while vying for our votes. Every election year, we’re lectured about the importance of the quickly approaching vote. Regardless of the year, political pundits will insist that the current election trumps all former ones (no pun intended). This may or may not be true, but what we can always count on is that candidates will court the senior vote.

Senior Americans show up in the voting booth more than younger Americans do. Compared with other age categories, seniors 65 and older turned out in larger numbers and at a higher rate than any others in 2016, with a turnout of nearly 71 percent.

Seniors are predicted to continue to play a pivotal role in the 2020 elections, too, though there’s some concern that COVID-19 might be a contributing factor in senior voter turnout.

Alzheimer’s and voter turnout

Though seldom discussed, Alzheimer’s disease could affect voter turnout. This is a logical conclusion.

Current and future candidates would do well to consider the numbers and stats involving Alzheimer’s disease. The category of seniors who vote matches the age at which many Americans contract dementias. Americans are aging, and as we grow older in the U.S., the number of dementia cases rises. Currently, more than 5 million potential voters have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Bright Focus Foundation, 500,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease this year. By mid-century, that number is expected to grow. At the current rate, someone in the U.S. will develop this mind-altering disease every 33 seconds. How could that not affect the turnout of older American voters?

Tons of political mail is sent out daily, and much of it targets seniors. How many of those seniors have cognitive impairments that prohibit them from acting on their right to vote? How many are sound enough, cognitively speaking, to make an informed decision about whom they will vote into local and national political offices?

The answers to these questions vary. For example, a voter in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may be capable of making a choice and casting a vote.

However, getting to the polling station for in-person voting may not be a choice they can make. Driving any amount of distance could pose a threat to a person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Even in the early stages of the disease, it is possible to become disoriented and confused and to get lost.

Caregivers can step up in this regard. You can drive your loved one to the polling place, but please respect their choice of candidates. Respect their decision if it differs from your own.

Early voting

Crowds can be an issue for some people with Alzheimer’s disease. Avoid crowds at polling stations by voting early. Early voting dates vary from state to state. Visit Vote.org to find out if early voting is an option for your loved one with dementia.

Vote by mail

Choosing a candidate by absentee ballot is convenient both for caregivers and the person being cared for, especially in light of COVID-19.

Ballots can be filled out in the comfort of your home and then mailed according to state rules, which vary. Learn more here.

However you vote, and whether or not your loved one is cognitively sound enough to make political decisions, candidates should contemplate the future of the U.S. in light of the Alzheimer’s Association’s predictions about the disease.

Making the world a better place should include a plan for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Let’s keep that in mind when we close the voting booth curtain for this and future elections.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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