Recently, a few of my colleagues and I were invited to a screening for the new documentary, Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts. The film highlighted just how unprepared we are as a society for the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. This impact will fall squarely on caregivers, hospitals and the economy! It’s potential damage is only growing as the Baby Boomer Generation continues to retire and age.
One example that was highly discussed included the state of New Hampshire’s shortage of skilled nursing facilities to care for the elderly population. This shortage is the result of a 1996 moratorium on nursing home beds, intended to limit the state’s Medicaid spending. Twenty-one years later, the negative effects of this bill are now quite prominent. Those residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are being forced to remain at home alone as the disease progresses. The disease impairs their judgment and decision making skills, causing a number of potential issues ranging from care and nutrition to safety and finances.
Alzheimers: Every Minute Counts Panel Discussion
We were also able to participate in a panel discussion led by NPR personality Arun Rath. Panel members included the documentary’s executive producer Gerry Richman, as well as Greg O’Brien, author and person living with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, his wife Mary Catherine O’Brien and their physician Dr Rudolph Tanzi.
“One in five dollars of Medicaid money goes towards Alzheimer’s”
The discussions delved into just how financially unprepared our country is for the rise of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is clear that we don’t do enough preventive screenings like we do for cancers and heart disease. We wait too long. We wait until a person starts to show symptoms before we start treating the symptoms of this disease. By then, it is just too late.
“One in five dollars of Medicaid money goes towards Alzheimer’s,” Dr Tanzi stated. “And in 30 years that number will rise to one in three.” We’ve gone down a dark path if funding and research do not rise to the occasion.
Dr. Tanzi also highlighted four important ways to keep a person’s brain healthy:
- 8 hours of sleep
- A mediterranean diet
- Plant-based probiotics
A Call For Alzheimers Awareness
Working everyday with residents living with related dementias, I see first hand the impact on the individuals and their families. If we could identify the disease earlier, we could potentially reverse its symptoms. We need more education and awareness, and more Dementia Friendly type programs. Our members of Congress should be reminded that this is a problem that is only going to get worse. Call them and ask them to help. Most of all, we need to build an understanding of this disease. The more advocates we can find, the more hope we can create.