Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Newsweek on the Alzheimer's Care Crisis

Newsweek's June 18, 2007 issue (available June 10th) features its cover story, "Caregiving & Alzheimer's", described with the tagline "In a wrenching role reversal, adult children are struggling to help their ailing parents -- The toll on families -- and How to cope".

The Editor, Jon Meacham, introduces the series of articles with comments about the deep emotion & traumatic effects presented by the elderly in American who suffer from Alzheimer's Disease, which has matured into a "crisis":

Tears seem an entirely understandable response to the complexities and role reversals that . . . [millions of ] Americans are confronting as the number of Alzheimer's cases inexorably rises. * * *

On the question of Alzheimer's and caregiving, however, the crisis is not only coming, it is here. Five million Americans currently suffer from the disease, and 70 percent of them live at home. The number of Alzheimer's cases could rise to 16 million in the next four decades. * * *
The articles were written by various contributors "through the prism of their personal experiences."

The first article (pages 55-59), by Barbara Kantrowitz & Karen Springen, entitled "Confronting Alzheimer's", addresses the situation of "millions of boomers" who are caring for parents "afflicted with a disease that steals minds and memories," even to the point where "your mother doesn't know you, or her own name."

The authors relate individual stories about Alzheimer's Disease victims -- 36%, mothers; 16%, grandparents; 13%, non-relatives; 11%, mothers-in-law; 8%, fathers; 6%, spouses; & 10%, other relatives -- and their devoted caretakers, noting that 87% of caregiving is provided by relatives.

This lead article was posted full-length by Newsweek on MSNBC's website, here. On that webpage, links to other component articles, and some online features, are provided:
The Newsweek article by Joan Raymond, entitled "How to Talk About Aging", cites a survey conducted by AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), which found that nearly 70 percent of adult children have not talked to their parents about issues related to aging. See: "World's Alzheimer's cases to quadruple by 2050", posted June 11, 2007, by MSNBC.

As to that "talk", the author states:
"The time for a frank conversation with your parents is right now."
* * * "How I wish we would have talked about the hard stuff sooner."

When it comes to aging parents and their children, sometimes a good talk is the best medicine.
AARP provides an outline & tips for just such a conversation in its online article entitled "Talking to Older Parents About Independence".

AARP also offers helpful tips & extensive resources about caregiving for elderly persons, in its AARP Magazine's Online Guide to Caregiving. Similarly, the Newsweek series includes an excellent
"Guide for Caregivers", which addresses topics of: medical issues; finances; legal issues; housing; family dynamics; & resources. One writer suggests that Father's Day and Mother's Day are opportunities to initiate such discussions. See: "Father's Day a good time to discuss end-of-life planning", by Eileen Putnam (of Associated Press), posted June 11, 2007, by the Ocala (Florida) Star-Banner.

In the conclusion of Newsweek's first article, the authors mention some potential new treatments for suffers of Alzheimer's Disease; and the AARP's homepage features a positive article with some details,
"Real Hope for Alzheimer's Victims":
This month, scientists are expected to announce final test results for the first in a whole new generation of drugs one expert says are "all but certain" to significantly change the nature of Alzheimer's disease.
This hope may be founded in research conducted right here in Pennsylvania, at the Thomas Jefferson University:
"Within three years, it's all but certain we'll have disease-modifying drugs that fundamentally change the nature of Alzheimer's," says Sam Gandy, M.D., chair of the National Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer's Association and director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences in Philadelphia.
In the meanwhile, the caregiving will go on.

* * *