According to a 2009 report generated by the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight people aged 65 years or older have Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 70 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease and by mid-century, someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds. As a growing number of older Americans continue to develop the disease, Alzheimer’s care options will remain a significant priority for both family members of those suffering from the disease and formal providers of Alzheimer’s care.
Alzheimer’s Care at Home
Particularly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, care is often provided in the home by family members, friends, neighbors. Almost 10 million Americans provide unpaid care for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and there is increasing awareness of the implications that come with this responsibility. For spouses providing care at home, health problems often develop as a result of stress and too little sleep, particularly as sleeping patterns of those with Alzheimer’s are often disrupted. Adult children also take on the role of caregiving and suffer financially as a result of quitting their jobs to accommodate their parents’ care needs.
In recognition of these negative effects on unpaid caregivers, support and educational resources are becoming increasingly available among non-profit organizations and state agencies. New trends in home care support services include personal emergency response systems (PERS) and volunteer organizations that provide respite care for caregivers needing time away from their responsibilities.
Supplementing Alzheimer’s Care at Home
With an increasing number of seniors wanting to remain at home for as long as possible, home care agencies and adult day care programs will continue to increase in prevalence. Home care agencies provide companion care services to assist with activities of daily living, which include medication management, bathing, dressing, grooming and toileting. These hourly, daily or overnight services can often supplement the care provided by unpaid caregivers and many agencies are providing an increased level of flexibility with regard to required minimum hours, making home care a more affordable option for families.
Adult day care programs, while recently struggling due to cutbacks from federal Medicaid programs, will continue to increase in availability due the value of providing social interaction, activities and care while unpaid caregivers continue their employment and/or receive a well-deserved break.
Alzheimer’s Care in Community Settings
While the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, seniors are waiting longer than ever to move into senior living communities. As a result, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia continues to increase, particularly in assisted living communities. In fact, studies indicate that 45 – 67% of assisted living residents have Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
In response to this trend, providers are increasingly offering both assisted living and secured dementia care. The availability of both levels of care provides continuity for those who move in with early stages of dementia and, over time, require a higher level of supervision and care. Similarly, spouses can continue living within close proximity to one another regardless of differing care needs.
Written by gerontologist Sara Shelton.