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What New Dementia Stats Really Mean for You and Your Family

Updated: 03/20/2014 8:56 PM
Created: 03/19/2014 5:22 PM KSTP.com
By: Brandi Powell

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's is changing.

A new study released Wednesday from the Alzheimer's Association found women at age 65 have a one in six chance of developing the disease compared to one in eleven men.

Not only are women more at risk, but they're more likely to be a caregiver for a loved one living with the disease.

Here in Minnesota, 245,000 people care for the 88,000 seniors living with Alzheimer's. That amounts to 280 million hours of unpaid work.

As with any new study, those numbers can seem shocking. So to figure out what you need to take away from those findings, we sat down with a preeminent scholar in long-term care and aging, Robert Kane.

Since we know the number of people looking for Alzheimer's care in Minnesota is going up, we got a close-up account of the newest ways local dementia homes are collaborating with others.

Figuring out who will get Alzheimer's is a tricky business. "There is no 'Scarlet A' for Alzheimer's disease," said Kane, a medical doctor and endowed chair in Long-term Care and Aging at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Researchers are now developing a series of tests that can potentially diagnose the disease before you show any symptoms. Kane, who's written dozens of books and hundreds of journal articles on geriatrics and health services said, "I mean none of these tests are definitive. It's a crap shoot."

And if you're trying to ward off Alzheimer's, Dr. Kane said think again. your risk of getting Alzheimer's is primarily based on something you cannot control - your age. "The majority of Alzheimer's, as best we know at the moment, is not genetic," he said.

As the number of people living with the disease grows, nurses and dementia care specialists are starting to prepare. Krissi Barnett, Registered Nurse and Residence Director at Emerald Crest memory care home said, "We've partnered with the police department, the fire department, we're training them on dementia, so that when they're going out on these 911 calls they know how to deal with them."

Jane Wright, 82, is getting help at Emerald Crest. Her son-in-law Jim Kellison said, "She's just one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet; always has been, ever since I've known her."

Kellison opened up about the tough toll Alzheimer's takes on a family. About his wife Terri he said, "She says 'I want my mom back, I just want my mom back.' And it's so hard to say, mom's not ever going to come back the way she was." But they find comfort knowing there's a place she can now call home.

The specialists at Emerald Crest say in addition to partnering with law enforcement, they're now working with churches too.

The goal is to give care givers the tools they need long before their loved ones need to live in a home like theirs.

Plus, to deal with the growing need, they're taking their Alzheimer's tailored programming inside their sister locations so there's memory care expertise in sites that didn't have it before.

 


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