November is Alzheimer's Disease and Awareness Month. Approximately 5.4 million people in the U.S. (60-70% of people with dementia) have the disease. Over 15 million family members and friends are involved in their care (Alzheimer's Association).
If the thought of developing Alzheimer's disease or another dementia scares you, you're not alone. A 2010 MetLife study found that American adults fear dementia more than any disease other than cancer.
Interestingly, almost 75% of these same adults indicated that they knew little or nothing about the disease... a sign that there's definitely a need for some straightforward information.
Dementia is one of approximately 100 disorders that diminish our cognitive ability. Alzheimer's is the most-diagnosed disorder. Believe it or not, we all exhibit behaviors similar to the symptoms of dementia every day: we forget things, we make mistakes, we make social blunders.
The difference between our everyday slip-ups and dementia is that dementia symptoms affect "... memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning" (Mayo Clinic). People with dementia find it very difficult or impossible to do their jobs whether in the workplace or in their personal lives.
If you or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of dementia, the smartest thing to do is to see a physician as soon as possible for physical and cognitive testing. Sometimes dementia symptoms are caused by reversible factors such as medication, low B12, underactive thyroid, or depression. If symptoms are irreversible, medications and/or lifestyle changes can help to manage (though not cure) the disease (Alzheimer's Association). Obtaining a specific diagnosis is important; not only are early diagnoses more accurate, they can also lead to reduced symptoms and improved brain function (Alzheimer's and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin).
NOTE: If you're concerned about a loved one who resists seeking medical advice, see the National Alliance for Caregiving's Brain Health Toolkit for conversation tips.
Though Alzheimer's and many other dementia disorders are not yet treatable, dementia rates are dropping (NY Times). Researchers aren't sure why, but suspect that the decline is related to higher levels of education and increased compliance with hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol medications.
The mantra to remember: What's good for your heart is good for your brain (Harvard Health). Exercise, diet, reduced stress... they CAN make a difference!
Yesterday, was Veterans Day (Armistice Day), the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I. Though we honor all veterans on this day, the day is especially dedicated to the living veterans who have served our country in times of war and peace (History Channel).
Veterans Day is also commemorated by Great Britain, France, Australia, and Canada. In these countries and in the U.S., veterans are honored by two minutes of silence.
In 1960, 22.5 million veterans came from every region of America; 45% percent of the total population was either a veteran, a family member, or a dependent survivor (Department of Veterans Affairs). Today, the veteran population is about 20.4 million, fewer than 10% U.S. adults (Pew Research); veterans reside throughout the country but tend to live in rural and smaller metropolitan areas near military bases (Forbes).
In some ways, today's veterans are no different than the rest of us. They're children, parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and coworkers. It's their oath to protect our country (Military.com) that sets them apart.
Other key facts about today's veterans ( Department of Veterans Affairs; Pew Research):
On this Veterans Day weekend, CareSmart offers sincere gratitude to our veterans for their service to our country.
November is National Family Caregivers Month... a month for celebrating the contributions of family caregivers to their family members, friends, and neighbors.
What is a family caregivers? A family caregiver is one of over 43 million people in the United States who provide unpaid care to a family member, friend, or neighbor. Approximately 60% of family caregivers are women. While the average age of a family caregiver is 49, 25% are between the ages of 18 and 34 (AARP & NAC). Believe it or not, over a million children between the ages of 8 and 18 are also family caregivers (Emblem Health & NAC).
You might be a family caregiver and not realize it. Maybe surgery is keeping a friend from driving for a few weeks so you offer to pick up groceries. Maybe you shovel the driveway for your neighbor. Maybe you've started taking your grandmother to church. Maybe you do all of the above tasks for a loved one.
Caring for others is part of the human experience; its part of what we do for others (spouses, parents, siblings, children, other family member, friends, neighbors) because we care about them. Sometimes the role is temporary. Sometimes we share it with others. Sometimes it becomes a full-time job that grows to include medication management and wound care.
Emotionally, caring for a loved one can be one of the most significant interactions in our lives. Health wise, the support provided by family caregivers can be invaluable (CMS & The Joint Commission). Economically, the monetary value of family caregiving to the U.S. is staggering: in 2013, $470,000,000,000 slightly less than the value of Walmart sales (AARP).
This year's Family Caregiver theme is "Caregiving Around the Clock" in honor of family caregivers for whom caregiving is a 24/7 job. If you're one of these caregivers... or if caring for a loved one is starting to take on more significance in your life, check out the following websites for support and tips to help you care for your loved one... and for yourself.
Last but not least, visit CareSmart's "Caring for You" page. Feel free to visit our other pages, too, for help with caring for your loved one.
"It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing."
- Mother Theresa