Preparing for the Dementia Tsunami


TEDMED recently conducted a community discussion called Preparing for the Dementia Tsunami that put a spotlight on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, a yet incurable disease that is an increasing threat to global financial sustainability and quality of life as the aging population grows. Sound Options was there to summarize what you need to know about this growing problem.

Missed the discussion? Here is a synopsis:

Shocking Statistics:

  • Since 1985 the aging population has doubled.
  • By 2020, 43 Million people will be over the age of 65 and 15 Million will be over 85.
  • 1 in 8 of older Americans has Alzheimer’s

The Financial Impact

  • We spend 8 billion on cancer research, 3 billion on HIV/AIDS, but a comparatively trivial 500 Million at the NIH for Alzheimer’s Research.
  • Alzheimer’s is one of the top 10 killers of Americans. It is the only one without a cure and yet we spend a quarter of what we spend on research for other diseases on the list.
  • It costs us 200 billion per year to care for people with Alzheimer’s and that number will increase to 1 trillion per year in the coming decades. We are facing a cultural and fiscal sustainability issue and lack a long term care plan on a national level.
  • With increased longevity, retirement has expanded to include anywhere from 25-40 years. Financial planning for long term care costs is crucial. Care costs for this period of life can reach $500,000 per person. Medicare does not cover long term care costs such as home care.  

Treatment Research

  • Research into detection and treatment wages on, but lack of funding is a huge issue.
  • A lack of treatment trial volunteers is also a huge issue. The disease is so demanding on individuals and their family members that further involvement advocating and participating in disease research is often too much of a burden on families in crisis.
  • Early detection capabilities have increased greatly giving families more time to plan for the future even though the disease is not yet treatable.
  • Reducing risks of getting Alzheimer’s disease by making lifestyle changes is still one of the best ways to help the body stave off Alzheimer’s for longer. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are just a few problems linked with Alzheimer’s disease and can be helped with regular exercise and diet changes.

Eldercare Literacy & Education

  • Baby Boomers are in the throes of caring for aging parents and are seeing the need for a cultural shift in how we talk about and care for aging loved ones who are living longer.
  • 1% of nurses and nursing assistants in hospitals are certified to work with geriatrics, but 26% of visits are from the geriatric population. Training healthcare professionals and increasing public literacy around the disease and eldercare in general is crucial.

Where Do We Go From Here? What Can I Do? 

  • Be part of the change and educate your family, friends, and community about dementia 
  • Begin saving for your own eldercare needs. Open an HSA and begin contributing now!  
  • Volunteer to give reprieve to family members who are caring for a loved on with Alzheimer’s.
  • Write your government representatives about the growing crisis and need for increased funds for Alzheimer’s research and a long term care plan for the nation.  
  • Volunteer for trial treatments
  • Talk candidly about your experience with eldercare and what you have learned about it  
  • Contact an organization like the Alzheimer’s Association that will give you a variety of way to be a voice for those who cannot speak.
  • Speak with your loved ones EARLY about their long term care plans, finances, and end-of-life wishes. 

As a Geriatric Care Management and Home Care company, we see a low dementia and eldercare literacy among overwhelmed family members. We believe geriatric professionals like ourselves have a huge role to play in educating at the family and community level to empower adult children and ultimately help shift our culture to talk candidly and plan for elder care before crisis/diagnosis strikes. Our services are designed to relieve the pressure on families to tackles these overwhelming issues on their own. Through care, education, and coordination we increase quality of life for the elderly adult and their family.   

Click Here to listen to the entire TEDMED discussion. 

Published on February 21, 2013.