November is officially National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, a time that not only focuses on the 5 million or so Americans that suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, but also pays respect to their devoted caregivers. Alzheimer’s is a monumental health problem in the U.S.- someone in the country develops the disease every 67 seconds, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.1 Perhaps more startling is the figure that approximately one in three seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. This debilitating and currently incurable disease tasks more than 15 million caregivers nationwide to dedicate themselves to caring for Alzheimer’s patients. During the month of November, we honor all caregivers, including dedicated family and friends, nurses and certified dementia practitioners and those in pharmacy technology looking to develop better treatment options.
Caregivers and nurses
The Alzheimer’s Association notes that in 2013 alone caregivers provided nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care, which can be very taxing physically, emotionally and financially.1 Research by the organization also suggests that 60 percent of caregivers for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients self-report a high or very high level of emotional stress. Simultaneously, many organizations, such as the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, are working to develop higher standards for caring for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. There are numerous resources for those hoping to gain the specific knowledge and certification for caring for dementia patients.
For registered nurses and other health care professionals, November is a time to learn more about working with Alzheimer’s patients and thanking peers and colleagues who are committed to providing the best care for dementia patients on a daily basis.
Goals for the future
Of course, raising awareness is just the beginning, as researchers, caregivers and policymakers across the country are committed to finding more viable prevention and treatment options for dealing with this disease. In a proclamation distributed Nov. 1, 2014, President Barack Obama explained that the federal government is dedicated to finding ways to effectively prevent and treat the disease by 2025.2 The President of the U.S. continued by elaborating on the importance of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month:
“During National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, we join with researchers, health care providers, and patient advocates across our country to lift up all those who are battling this disease every day. As we come together to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s, we honor the individuals who lost their lives to it, as well as the devotion and selflessness of the millions of caregivers who endure the financial and emotional strains of this disease. In their spirit, let us continue our work to end this debilitating ailment and its devastating effects.”2
This proclamation comes during a promising time in the field of pharmacy technology, as several notable drug trials related to Alzheimer’s disease are taking place.3 Ideally, the extensive research being devoted to finding pharmaceutical solutions to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia means that more robust treatment options are on the horizon.
However, researchers have also linked simple lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, to risk of overall cognitive decline. To help prevent this disease, it will be the task of health care professionals to educate and encourage healthy lifestyle tendencies for patients to help deter Alzheimer’s and dementia.
1 “Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures,” Alzheimer’s Association. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp
2 “Presidential Proclamation — National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, 2014,” Official Wire, November 1, 2014. http://www.officialwire.com/pr/presidential-proclamation-national-alzheimers-disease-awareness-month-2014/
3 “5 Groundbreaking Trials Are Testing Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s,” by Alice Park, Time, July 16, 2014. http://time.com/2992603/5-groundbreaking-drugs-that-may-prevent-alzheimers/