Alzheimer’s in Californiaadmin
Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more and more common in California and nationwide as the population ages. In fact, about 12% of our population is now age 65 or above with about 5.5% age 75 or above. This is expected to grow to about 14.5% and 6% respectively as more baby boomers reach age 65 in 2015. As they move into their seventies and eighties, more than 20% of our citizenry will be age 65 or over, with 9% age 75 or over.
As our population ages, we are faced with new challenges in healthcare, particularly in managing Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, it is estimated that between 4 million and 7 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s, and that more than 14 million people will be diagnosed by the year 2050.
What was really new for me this time was that after a week in the hospital, I left for three weeks at Newport Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. I went directly home after other operations and had physical therapy at an outpatient center three times a week.
Given these statistics, it is a frightening specter indeed for an aging population and the younger generations caring for them. In California in particular, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death. In fact, one-tenth of the entire U.S. population living with Alzheimer’s lives in California. With this number expected to double to 1.1 million by 2030, it’s time to take a closer look at Alzheimer’s disease in California.
The Alzheimer’s Crisis in California
The California population of older adults has been growing rapidly for many decades, and this trend is projected to continue for decades to come. It is estimated that by 2040, the population aged 65 and over will constitute about 20% of California’s population and use almost half of all health care resources.
The rapid rise in the older population will dramatically increase the demand for health care services, yet the health care services area seems to be the weakest link in the state’s overall infrastructure. Health care providers are reaching retirement age and leaving the workforce faster than they can be replaced. Meanwhile, investments in health care infrastructure and education are not keeping up with projected demand for services.
Due to the rapid rise in elder population, Alzheimer’s disease is of particular concern to the state of California. Since age is the number one risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, we can expect an increase in people living with the disease as the elder population continues to grow.
Alzheimer’s imposes a huge burden on both society and individuals. The economic costs are staggering and believed to be well over $100 billion annually at this time. Included in this figure are the expenses of diagnostic tests and medication, home health care, part-time and full-time aides, nursing homes, as well as treatment of the various forms of Alzheimer’s. There is also the loss of productivity from those who have Alzheimer’s, and diminished productivity from the family members who have assumed the responsibility for care.
The social and emotional costs are also immense. Alzheimer’s is extremely disruptive to family relationships, with the normal roles of parent and child often becoming reversed. Children may have to look after parents whose cognitive function and behavior has regressed, and who are unable to care for themselves.
This may start with managing the checkbook and finances of a mother or father who can’t seem to keep the numbers straight. Sons and daughters may then have to take away driving privileges from parents or restrict other activities, even prohibiting them from leaving their homes without accompaniment. As many couples currently choose to have children later in life, they may find themselves caring for children as well as parents, the so-called sandwich generation.
What is California Doing to Address the Alzheimer’s Crisis
Fortunately for aging seniors and their families, California has a plan in place to address the Alzheimer’s crisis. Here is what you need to know:
Like many other misunderstood diseases, there is a certain stigma and negativity associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The first step in California’s plan is to spread awareness and acceptance of Alzheimer’s disease. This will involve a public education campaign as well as the development and promotion of public information and educational materials.
Ensure Access to High Quality, Coordinated Care
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease does not automatically mean that the patient will eventually end up in a nursing home. Although this was often the case in the past, advances in home and community-based care have opened up other options for those with the disease. The second goal of California’s plan is to ensure Alzheimer’s patients understand what their care options are and have access to services that will help them stay in their home if that is what is appropriate and desired.
Establish a Comprehensive Approach to Support Family Caregivers
California has placed special emphasis on supporting unpaid family caregivers. This is often a stressful and demanding role with very little outside assistance. California plans to offer funding and support for caregivers to receive professional guidance and resources to navigate the complex issues that arise for family caregivers.
Develop an Alzheimer’s Proficient Culturally Competent Workforce
The last goal of California’s plan is to promote and train healthcare workers to care for Alzheimer’s patients specifically. California hopes to educate the workforce in basic dementia sensitivity, encourage education in programs that work with Alzheimer’s patients, and continue to provide training through the California Alzheimer’s Disease Centers.
If you are a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you are probably concerned with current and future care options. The good news is that the state of California is preparing for the future of Alzheimer’s.
Are you prepared for what the future will bring? If not, it’s time to start researching your options now. Generations Healthcare can help.