Alzheimer's and Dementia Responsible for 1 in 3 Senior Deaths, Report Shows

A new Alzheimer’s Association report, 2013 Alzheimer's Disease Facts & Figures, released yesterday, indicates that the disease is now the sixth leading cause of death, taking the lives of 1 in 3 seniors.

And while death from other diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke decline, Alzheimer's deaths continue to rise, increasing 68% from 2000-2010. The reason? According to the report, it is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression.

The mortality rate for Alzheimer’s and dementia, while certainly increasing as the population ages, isn’t a new phenomenon. However, the reporting of death from dementia and Alzheimer’s may have been previously under-reported, according to  Susan Mitchell, a professor of medicine at Harvard and a scientist at Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research.

Alzheimer's patients tend to have other health problems as well, she says. Alzheimer’s and dementia lead to the death of nerve cells. In the beginning stages of the disease, the cells damaged mostly affect memory and behavior. As the disease progresses, the brain cells damaged control body functions. For example, a person suffering from dementia may lose their ability to swallow correctly. Food goes down the wrong way, resulting in lung damage and finally pneumonia. And it is that pneumonia which has been listed as the cause of death, and not the underlying dementia from which it stemmed.

From a caregiving standpoint, almost 15% of those caregiving for loved ones are doing it long-distance — living an hour or more away and they pay nearly twice as much out-of-pocket for care as their onsite counterparts. However, the emotional toll is understandably greater for those who must deal with caregiving on their own. “More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; more than one-third report symptoms of depression.” These are the family caregivers who desperately need help in the form of respite caregivers.

Caregiving for Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia requires a special skill set and the need for skilled caregivers is only going to increase. State training requirements vary, but Caregiverlist, along with Terra Nova Films, presents training videos to assist you with understanding how to care for special needs of older adults suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

If you are a certified nursing aide, home health aide, companion caregiver or family caregiver, these videos will help you improve upon your current skills and learn about the latest approaches for successful caregiving.

And read Norm McNamara’s Caregiverlist Diary to gain a better understanding of the daily challenges faced by those living with Alzheimer’s.

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