More than two thirds of the 51,000 Kentuckians living in nursing homes in 2009 had some level of cognitive impairment, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The physical and emotional impact on caregivers is estimated at $144.6 million in increased health care costs in Kentucky alone.
An ever-increasing amount of the nation’s population is battling Alzheimer’s disease and as those numbers rise, so too do the numbers of people gripped by the disease without any help from a caregiver.
According to the 2012 statistics released in a national report by the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease including nearly 800,000 who live alone across the country.
In Kentucky, it was estimated that 80,000 people lived with the disease in 2010, including about 11,430 without any immediate caregiver. Furthermore, the association estimated as many as 6.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with the disease by 2025, about 97,000 of which will be from Kentucky.
“It is on the rise and that’s probably because people are simply living longer than they used to, and their chances are greater of developing this disease,” said Regina Carter, director of Bridge to Rediscovery — an Alzheimer’s care program — at Morningside Assisted Living in Paducah.
Without immediate caregivers, even the most basic forms of dementia can have terrible consequences. Joe Evanko, coordinator for the Mayfield-Graves County Alzheimer’s Support Group, said when simple forgetfulness becomes abnormal for that person — forgetting what they’re doing in a certain place or what their keys are used for — then a person should seek care.
Those people living on their own not only face simple disorientation, but issues like wandering, Carter said. That person might walk from their home without knowing how to return.
“Someone that may be in the early stages where they have some cognitive moments and some moments where things aren’t normal, they’re attention span is a lot shorter and they can lose focus,” Carter said.
When dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, the stresses not only weigh on those diagnosed with the disease, but those caregivers looking after their loved ones. Evanko said people can receive valuable information in such groups from people who have already been in that position.
“When an individual comes in, they feel bewildered, their loved one has been given a death nail, they’re confused and don’t know where to go,” Evanko said. “We leave every session with open questions where the answers come from other members, because these people are the experts living with it everyday.
“We’re not going to solve their problems, but at least they feel like they have a place to go, to share their thoughts and concerns.”
Call Will Pinkston, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.