In 2020, the oldest members of the baby boom generation will be 74 years old, notes Jessica Wapner, and of the 73 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, about 65 million are still alive.
With this increase in the population of the elderly comes a rise in the number of people living with the some form of dementia, a degenerative brain condition that includes Alzheimer’s disease. “Aside from a few medications that diminish some symptoms for some patients,” Wapner reminds us, “there are no treatments.”
“One in 10 Americans age 65 and over—an estimated 5.5 million people—has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease… By 2030, more than 8 million Americans will be living with some form of dementia,” notes Wapner.
In America’s rural areas, this rise is particularly hard to manage on a personal and local level since many of these counties do not have the money or the services to address the coming onslaught. Personally, many of the elderly are not equipped to cope due to their distance from , poverty and lack of access to health care.
“As a result,” Wapner points out, “they carry a heavier load, with the psychological isolation compounded by a physical one.”
New York state may have come up with a radical plan that may actually work. The state has dedicated $62.5 million over the next five years to support caregivers who can help those suffering from dementia with some of the most basic tasks, like taking a shower or running errands or just taking a nap. These state-funded initiatives could ultimately save billions and make life easier for people millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, poorer states will not be able to cover the costs of such initiatives, and, without federal help, some of which is currently required and provided by the Affordable Care Act, their most vulnerable citizens will have to suffer alone or stuck in a facility far from home and their spouses and families.