Much Has Changed Since the 2012 Start of World Alzheimer’s Month

Caregivers today still need our support, says columnist Ray Burow

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by Ray Burow |

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Dementia and Alzheimer’s groups around the globe are now closing out World Alzheimer’s Month. In 2012, when this observance began to bring awareness to the most common form of dementia, only 5.4 million people in the United States had the disease.

If it seems odd to connect the word “only” to 5.4 million, it is — except that in 2021, more than 6 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed, and sadly, the Alzheimer’s Association expects that number to rise to 12.7 million in 2050.

In 2011, more than 15 million people were unpaid caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In 2021, over 11 million caregivers, a decrease, provided unpaid care, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, but the cost of care is estimated to be $321 billion in 2022.

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A young man shouts an announcement into a megaphone.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month; Sept. 21 is Alzheimer’s Day

Positive strides

In 2012, the Alzheimer’s Association awarded what was then the largest grant for Alzheimer’s research: nearly $4.2 million over four years. In 2021, donors and partners contributed more than $384 million, while direct marketing was responsible for raising over $74.4 million. At the same time, new donors to the Alzheimer’s Association increased by 18%.

Medical science has made great strides in treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Biomarkers to detect Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages have been uncovered and explored, and many clinical trials and studies have been conducted.

As recently as this spring, a transdermal patch was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Applied once a week, the patch delivers Adlarity (donepezil) to treat the symptoms of mild to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Only a few short years have passed since the designation of World Alzheimer’s Month. Hopefully, as with the past 10 years, the next decade will yield more discoveries from medical science, as well as increased Alzheimer’s funding to lead to a cure for the disease.

Caregivers’ needs

In the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 30% of caregivers are 65 or older, and most live with the person for whom care is provided. A more significant percentage of women are caregivers, and they’re often daughters of a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. About 25% are members of the “sandwich generation,” caregivers who simultaneously raise children.

Families usually bear the cost of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease (70%), according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Compared with carers of people without dementia, caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease have more financial, emotional, and physical difficulties.

How to help a caregiver

Those who aren’t caregivers sometimes praise friends and family members who do it. Caregivers receive flattering accolades like “You’re amazing, an angel!,” “How do you do it?,” and “You are incredibly patient; not everyone can do what you do.” These are pretty words and lovely sentiments, but caregivers need practical assistance, and it’s not as difficult to provide as you might think.

A few suggestions follow:

  • Make a meal and lighten a caregiver’s load. Deliver it with paper plates.
  • Offer to pick up the kids from school or take them on a fun outing.
  • Cart off a load of laundry to your house or pay for a laundry service.
  • Depending on the level of care needed, offer to stay with their loved one for an hour or two.
  • Clean the house or mow the lawn, or pay to have it done if you can.
  • Run errands, or offer to pick up groceries at your next grocery shop.
  • Offer to pick up medicine at the pharmacy.

There are hundreds of ways to assist a friend or family member who’s caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Be specific and tailor your assistance to their need.

Former first lady and caregiving advocate Rosalynn Carter said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

We find our place beneath one of those categories and respond accordingly.

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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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