On September 11th I wrote a piece called “Are You Prepared?” that addresses the basic questions of being prepared for an emergency. It outlines some of the things we are doing for vulnerable populations and gives some emergency tips. It was a decent piece, if I do say so despite my odd writing style, in terms of content. It skirts around and pokes at the main topic regarding a program that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services calls “Ready in 3” and the Red Cross calls “(Being) Red Cross Ready“. Here are the three things that these two wonderful organizations categorically recommend:
- Have a disaster kit
- Create a disaster plan
- Inform yourself
The basic idea, as worked through in the previous article, is to gather enough important things (food, meds, first aid goods, etc…) to get you by for at least ****3 days until, ideally, volunteers/Red Cross/FEMA/charitable groups will arrive to alleviate the suffering as best they can. An important aspect of this is to work through this process IN YOUR CONTEXT because no cookie cutter program will have everyone ready.
Today I would like to contextualize this discussion differently. How can you get ready for dementia?
(Cricket sound) (The following likely going through some minds here….) :
“I don’t have dementia, Cornbread boy!”
“I am just 25, Sir Blogopotamos!”
“I though this was a cooking blog!”
- One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia. (Note: Age is the biggest determiner of getting the disease)
- Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
- Older African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
- Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
- The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is growing — and growing fast.
- An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019. This number includes an estimated 5.6 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
- As the number of older Americans grows rapidly, so too will the number of new and existing cases of Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure Alzheimer’s disease.
- Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.
- Some 5% under 65 develop the disease. At 65 the odds start increasing by roughly double every 5 years until one in six over 80 have the disease. All demographics are at risk, but the older you get, the more likely one of the (many?) causes will get ya.
I feel very confident that your odds are better being killed by this umbrella of diseases than a natural disaster. Don’t believe me? I Googled it and the internet never lies! (JK). 1:3500 are your odds of any natural disaster getting you. In fact, the always right John Tesh states ” You have a 1 in 84,000 chance of being struck by lightning–Your odds of dying as the result of an asteroid impact are 1 in 200,000–And the odds that you or I will die in a tsunami are more like one in 500,000.” I checked with the NIH and they were similar. Another data compiler estimated .1% or 60,000 deaths per year worldwide. Does it happen? YES!!! Should you be prepared? Absolutely! I am doing a presentation this Thursday in Buffalo, Missouri outlining the DHSS Ready in 3 program and distributing some free disaster kits starters. Not only is it part of my job, it is important to me personally to spread that word. Get ready for disasters!!!
Alzheimer’s/Dementia!!! Zoinks, Scoob! This numbers…and they are growing! (The only of the top 10 causes of death with no cure nor life-extending treatments!)
So, how do we get ready for dementia? There are a lot of similarities to what I will discuss in Ready in 3. Here are my thoughts. I shall call it Ready in, uhhh…errr…4:
- Prevent it as best you can: Here is the Alz.org link on prevention. If you fight this menace, your odds of getting the disease even as you age, decrease. Summary: what is good for the heart is good for the brain. Exercise, quit smoking, eat right, reduce stress, sleep enough. You, like I, know the drill. Now do it! Add to the heart-health some more brain health ideas…start: exercising your brain by reading, taking up a foreign language or a musical instrument, staying engaged in the world and not isolating yourself (This is HUGE!! Isolated folks are twice as likely to develop the disease!!!).
- Have a dementia kit: Despite your yeoman’s effort, you seem to be developing this disease… Now what?? Develop a dementia “kit”. Your kit needs some components: First get a couple of opinions/diagnoses to be sure what you are experiencing isn’t one of the many things that look like the disease. It may be hard to get a primary healthcare provider to formally diagnose you. Get another opinion. Next, call the Alzheimer’s Association help line at 800.272.3900 and discuss your diagnosis with them. They will provide a wealth of goods for your kit. Next gather a care team. Here is one of the many pieces I have written on gathering your team. THIS IS HUGE!!! It takes several people/groups to fight this beast! Next, dementia-proof your home. Simplify your life to the basics as best you can. Also, fall-proof your home better than ever. Falling is a tremendous problem for those with the disease (and seniors in general). Take a class at your local senior center on balance. It will pay dividends! Last, add to your care team an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group and/or wellness group. At SeniorAge we have several programs in this area including the outstanding Stress Busting program.
- Create a dementia plan: First, hear my heart here… We are searching for a cure and treatments. Every day something new is released that is being studied in this area. Cures, treatments, vaccines…yup. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to find them! However, sadly, there is not much lasting good news to report. Your dementia plan needs to keep this in mind. 🙁 Consult an elder law attorney to see about shielding your assets while allowing you to receive medicaid. There are options. While you are there, work out your trust/will/etc…. It is expensive, but important for everyone, but especially for our community. Powers of attorney (medical and financial) documents are mission critical and time is essential. Make your desires known in the areas of last directives/living wills, organ donation, funeral arrangements, etc… In summary: get your personal and religious affairs in order.
- Be informed: Utilize the Alzheimer’s Association website to learn all you can learn. Use my blog where it points to solid resources, knowing that I am not a medical professional, but am speaking from a several year crash course. Watch videos by Teepa Snow and others like her on YouTube. Knowledge is power whether you have the disease or are a caregiver. When in doubt, filter any information you gather through the Alz.org website and/or the 1-800# I referenced earlier. There are lots of fake sites and snake oil out there too…be careful.
We cannot and should not fear the many things out there that vie for a place on our anxiety shelf, but working through this information, especially if you are in a risk category, is a wise way to be ready for this large-scale problem and to protect yourself and your loved ones from unnecessary pain.
Update: another good weekend for mom. All seems pretty stable for the moment as she gradually and peacefully (lately) descends to her eternal reward.
****Please note: there are NO GUARANTEES that these groups can and will come, so more than three days is better.