Baby boomers are already feeling the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. Millions of boomers currently serve as caregivers for elderly patients crippled by this cruel disease and a large number of baby boomers are at risk of developing it themselves. The boomer generation is already being crushed by the financial, emotional and physical toll of caring for family members suffering with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease strikes 5+ million Americans every year. Given this country’s aging baby boomer population, the number of people contracting this cruel disease will soar in the next decade. Today, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in this country and by 2050, 16 million people will likely be afflicted with it. Sadly there is no cure, no way to prevent it and no way to slow down its progression. Patients often suffer with Alzheimer’s for years, along with their 15+ million families and caregivers.
We all fear Alzheimer’s, but what exactly is it? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is ‘a disease of the brain that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior and involves the failure of nerve cells.’
There are 10 early warning signs for Alzheimer’s:
- -memory loss that disrupts daily life;
- -challenges in planning or solving problems;
- -difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure;
- -confusion with time or place;
- -trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships;
- -new problems with words in speaking and writing;
- -misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps;
- -decreased or poor judgment;
- -withdrawal from work or social activities; and
- -changes in mood and personality.
Age, family history and genetics all come into play as well as one’s lifestyle.
Over time, Alzheimer’s gradually worsens to the point where the patient loses his or her mental faculties, memory and eventually his or her life. But this can take years, which means many years of caregiving by baby boomers, who are caregivers to their parents.
Although there is no cure, there are medications, treatments and support services to help patients and boomer caregivers. Baltimore boomers will find an array of support services at the Alzheimer’s Association of Maryland.
And, there is always hope. Research to date indicates the steps people take to maintain brain health may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, baby boomers who eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, stay mentally alert and remain socially active may help reduce their chances of getting Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease can take a devastating toll on families and loved ones. The best known way to prevent this heartbreaking disease is to be proactive with your health. Fitness now takes on a new meaning for baby boomers, a generation known for its commitment to physical and mental fitness. Boomers, already well acquainted with Alzheimer’s from the caregiver perspective, now have even more incentive to lead a healthy lifestyle and decrease their own risk of getting Alzheimer’s.