TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – Each year, one in every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s Disease or some other form of dementia.
Geriatrician Dr. Ashley Harris was one of three experts that spoke to hundreds of professionals and caregivers who work with those suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s now the 5th leading cause of death for people 65 and older.
“We generally are an aging society. The Baby Boomers, the 1st wave of Baby Boomers, turned 65 on January 1, 2010. So we do have what we call a public health crisis on our hands,” says Sara Murphy of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease have increased 68% from 2000 to 2010. This year, an estimated 450,000 people in the US will die with Alzheimer’s. It’s a global crisis with one of every nine people over 65 living with Alzheimer’s. As people continue to live longer, families will have to learn how to cope with the disease.
“One of the challenges that so many family members face is, frankly, the stress and exhaustion that can come from caring for an adult 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Safety issues are always a concern, that someone may wander away and not remember how to get home. Those kinds of things,” says Dr. Laura Pannell, Director of Gerontology at Itawamba Community College.
Alzheimer’s disease is just one of the many forms of dementia, with the top two risk factors being age and family history. But Murphy says there are a few things indicators to watch for.
“Some of the warning signs are short term memory loss. Memory loss that impacts their ability to conduct their daily living. Confusion. Confusion with time or place. Poor judgement or reasoning. Sometimes there can be a change or shift in personality as well,” says Murphy.
Dr. Laura Panell says there’s no cure and no way to determine if you’ll get Alzheimer’s, but there is one thing that you can do to help.
“Use it or lose it. It’s very true with your physical body and it is very true with your cognitive abilities. We need to stay focused. We need to stay engaged. The more engaged you are with your cognitive skills the more likely you are to retain those,” says Panell.
There are currently 53,000 Mississippians living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers say by the year 2050, up to 16 million people will have Alzheimer’s disease.