Friday, March 9, 2018

Sky: Five-and-a-Half Million

Five-and-a-half million.

5,500,000 is a LOT.

It is the estimated number of people living with dementia right now in the the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The number is a lot, but where is everybody?

Well, “common sense” or “stereotype” tells us to look for the demented among us in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.  I looked and found that over a million-and-a-half Americans are currently living in nursing homes and another million in assisted living. It is estimated that roughly 50% of these residents are on the dementia continuum. So, nursing homes and assisted living account for 1.25 million of the total 5.5 million directly affected by dementia, as estimated by the Alzheimer’s Association.  What are the remaining four million+ people with dementia up to? Where do they live?

These are not just idle questions…the dementia numbers are skyrocketing. Since 2000, deaths from heart disease, the most common cause of death in the US, have decreased 14%. Deaths from dementia have increased 89%. A new case is diagnosed every 66 seconds!  Think about it: Most of the people currently living with dementia do not live in residential care. Most continue to live at home. My personal Plan A is to live at home just as long as humanly possible, spending my remaining time with family, friends and good times, mixed up of course with familiar doses of confusion and fear.

I know, I know…it’s not just up to me, my care partners must have their lives, too. But gradually the real world of work is catching up with the real lives of working families. Even the Federal Government is realizing the importance of Family Leave time off for family members to tend to major family issues like dementia care.

But, back to those five-and-a-half million of us living with dementia in this country…most of us are NOT confined to an institution. We are everyday people. We grocery shop, go to the movies, enjoy what we enjoy. We take risks sometimes, just like everyone else.

How many people on the dementia continuum have you passed by on the street today? How many have you said hello to?

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