In this blog post by AFA Teens Advisory Board member, Barrett Cole, she addresses the growing Alzheimer's disease epidemic and calls on teens to make a difference by volunteering and spending a few hours with someone with the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just affect the people with the disease; it has a huge impact on their families, their friends and their communities. It not only robs individuals of their cognitive abilities, but it steals time and energy from everyone involved. With a growing aging community, Alzheimer’s disease continues to wreak havoc on those whose lives it affects. As people live longer, and with no cure yet in sight, Alzheimer’s disease will have a huge impact not only on older generations but on younger generations as well.
Alzheimer’s disease is a growing problem. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), it is estimated that as many as 5.1 Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease.
Current research from the National Institute of Aging (NIA) indicates that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years beyond age 65. While deaths from other major health factors continue to drop in the United States, the number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease continues to increase.
With a disease like Alzheimer’s, for which there is no cure, one of the most important things that we can do as neighbors and communities is to give of our time and energy in helping people dealing with the disease and its insurmountable trials.
Alzheimer’s disease is not only emotionally draining, but it is financially draining. It is estimated that one to four family members act as caregivers for each individual with Alzheimer’s disease, according to AFA. The annual cost of caring for one individual with Alzheimer's disease ranges from nearly $18,500 to more than $36,000, depending on the stage of the disease, and the national tab for caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated at $100 billion annually.
"The demands of day-to-day care, changing family roles and difficult decisions about placement in care facilities can be extremely hard to handle," according to the NIA. Community initiatives such as online and face-to-face support groups can be a lifeline to those dealing with these issues.
Volunteering to just visit someone with Alzheimer’s disease for as little as an hour can make a difference both for the caregiver and the individual with the disease. Additionally, recent studies show that social engagement and mentally stimulating pursuits can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in particular. Take the time to go read a book or play a game with someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Cook a meal. Hold a conversation with an individual who spends most of the day alone taking care of a loved one. Help educate members your community about this disease and risk factors.
Even one small act of kindness like this can mean the world to people affected by Alzheimer’s disease—and can reward you with meaningful experiences in the process.