The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease today is unprecedented in human history. Presently, more than 5 million Americans have a diagnosis. In Michigan alone, roughly 180,000 individuals are living with memory loss. Approximately every 68 seconds, someone develops the disease. By 2050, the numbers are projected to increase to between 11 and 15 million nationwide. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., and it is the only cause among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured.
The cost of Alzheimer’s disease is high. This year in the United States, we will spend more than $200 billion caring for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Unfortunately, family caregivers are absorbing a majority of this burden. In fact, in 2012 15.4 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at more than $216 billion, in the United States.
Family members are often the front line of Alzheimer’s care, but they may lack the appropriate support, resources, or education needed to execute their job effectively. Caregiving can be extremely taxing work, and dementia caregivers are particularly at risk for burnout, distress, and other negative outcomes. Research indicates that dementia caregivers have poorer physical, mental, and financial well-being, than their non-caregiving counterparts. Caregivers are also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, reduced immune function, increased incidence of disease and mortality, as well as disruptions in employment and depleted incomes.
November is “National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month” and “National Caregiver Month”. If you know someone who is a caregiver, show them your support and offer respite. Learn more about this special month and pay tribute to a caregiver here.
If you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, consider following these 10 tips to being a healthier caregiver:
1. Understand what’s going on as early as possible.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s may appear gradually. It can be easy to explain away changing or unusual behavior when a loved one seems physically healthy. Instead, consult a doctor when you see changes in memory, mood or behavior. Don’t delay; some symptoms are treatable.
2. Know what community resources are available.
Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association office. The staff can help you find Alzheimer’s care resources in your community. Adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and meal delivery are just some of the services that can help you manage daily tasks.
3. Become an educated caregiver.
As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. The Alzheimer’s Association offers programs to help you better understand and cope with the behaviors and personality changes that often accompany Alzheimer’s.
4. Get help.
Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. Seek the support of family, friends, and community resources. Tell others exactly what they can do to help. The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline, online message boards and local support groups are good sources of comfort and reassurance. If stress becomes overwhelming, seek professional help.
5. Take care of yourself.
Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Making sure that you stay healthy will help you be a better caregiver.
6. Manage your level of stress.
Stress can cause physical problems (blurred vision, stomach irritation, high blood pressure) and changes in behavior (irritability, lack of concentration, change in appetite). Note your symptoms. Use relaxation techniques that work for you, and talk to your doctor.
7. Accept changes as they occur.
People with Alzheimer’s change and so do their needs. They may require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Becoming aware of community resources — from home care services to residential care — should make the transition easier. So will the support and assistance of those around you.
8. Make legal and financial plans.
Plan ahead. Consult a professional to discuss legal and financial issues including advance directives, wills, estate planning, housing issues and long-term care planning. Involve the person with Alzheimer’s and family members whenever possible.
9. Give yourself credit, not guilt.
Know that the care you provide does make a difference and you are doing the best you can. You may feel guilty because you can’t do more, but individual care needs changes as Alzheimer’s progresses. You can’t promise how care will be delivered, but you can make sure that the person with Alzheimer’s is well cared for and safe.
10. Visit your doctor regularly.
Take time to get regular checkups, and be aware of what your body is telling you. Pay attention to any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite or behavior. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.
2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures
Take Care of Yourself Alzheimer’s Association brochure
Why conduct a needs assessment?
Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the population. With mortality rates declining, particularly among the oldest segment, there will be more need for services to help maintain older adults’ well-being and quality of life than ever before. At the same time, funding for aging services remains stagnant at best, whether it comes from Federal or State grants or from local property taxes. A carefully conducted community based needs assessment helps to identify the needs of the older population within a particular place. It provides valid and reliable data to inform and guide the planning, targeting, and delivery of local aging services to help make the expenditure of public funds more effective and efficient.
The IOG has a long track record of conducting older adult needs assessments at the state, county, and city level. Most recently, we reported findings from a needs assessment of older adults in Calhoun County, Michigan. Our report was based on a broad population survey, a stakeholder survey of service providers, leaders, and experts in the local aging network, and several focus groups of aging service clients from around the county. We followed community based participatory research (CBPR) principles and pursued a multi-method data collection strategy, an approach that results in a deeper and richer understanding of the local conditions and unique circumstances and needs faced by the county’s older adults.
What did we learn?
We found that the needs of older adults in Calhoun County vary significantly by health, socioeconomic status, family and living circumstances, and geography. In a broad sense, those who report needing the most supportive services tend to have below-average health, functional or sensory limitations, lower income, lower levels of education, and be single or widowed and living alone in rental housing located in Battle Creek or Albion. However, the older population of Calhoun County is quite diverse, and a great many older Calhoun residents in need do not fit this profile. Plenty of married homeowners in Marshall and Tekonsha and Newton Township also report a need for services to help them maintain their health and independence at home. When it comes to older adults and aging services, one size does not fit all.
The most needed services reported by Calhoun’s older population fall into a few basic categories: Health, independence, and information. Although the vast majority, particularly those age 65 and older, have health insurance, their insurance coverage often does not extend to dental, vision, and hearing services. Those were among the top needed services identified across our three major data collection efforts, in addition to exercise and wellness programs for seniors.
Home repair, chore, and maintenance assistance to help older county residents stay in their homes are the top needed independence services, along with utility assistance for those in financial need and transportation for those who do not drive. In the category of information, stakeholders and focus group participants alike called for more outreach and public awareness efforts, enhanced information and assistance services, and innovative ways of providing access and informing older adults about the options and services that may be available to them.
While rural-dwelling survey respondents were less likely to report living alone and more likely to report having friends and family members they can count on for help, focus group participants from rural areas were more likely to report feeling lonely and isolated. Seniors in sparsely populated areas especially value opportunities to socialize with fellow seniors, so they value the wellness and congregate meal programs not only for their health benefits, but because they facilitate peer interaction as well.
Our focus groups and key stakeholders survey helped us not only to gauge the level of need in the community, but also to gather ideas about ways in which service delivery can be improved. Many participants advocated for greater community partnership, for reaching out beyond the aging network to collaborate with other groups and businesses that have an interest in serving the older population. Churches, service and fraternal clubs, coffee shops and diners, and other locally based organizations may be enlisted to help distribute information, identify seniors in need, and provide an access channel to services. Those already providing aging services can work together more closely to coordinate services, reduce duplication, and close gaps.
What does it matter?
This is just a brief overview of our findings; a copy of our detailed report is available upon request. Of course, the ultimate purpose of a needs assessment is not merely to produce a report, but to inform and guide action. We are pleased that our community needs assessment results have already helped the Calhoun County Office of Senior Services and the Region 3B Area Agency on Aging determine where and how to allocate funding that better responds to the needs of older adults in their county. They have consolidated dispatch and transportation programs to save money and provide better service. They have developed pilot programs for cost-effective chore and home modification services. They have increased funding for dental, vision, and hearing assistance. They have initiated efforts to integrate whole person wellness, health screening, congregate meals, recreational programs, and benefits counseling into combined sessions in rural areas to promote social engagement, reduce isolation, and provide increased access to services. And they are expanding efforts to coordinate services and build relationships with service providers and community organizations. These are just some examples of the ways in which needs assessment research can be used to help strengthen community efforts to support older adults while enhancing effective stewardship of public resources.
The IOG will be welcoming five new students this fall, and welcoming back seven current students to our research mentorship program. Each of which are pursuing PhD’s in their home department or program while gaining additional support, mentoring and professional development from a faculty member or affiliate of the IOG with a focus on aging. To get better acquainted with our student body, we thought it a good idea to interview this years IOG Graduate Student Organization (GSO) incoming President, Pamela May.
Can you share something about yourself and the work you currently do at the IOG?
I’m beginning my fifth year as a pre-doctoral trainee at the IOG and my first year as the IOG Graduate Student Organization President. I am a clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Wayne State, working towards proposing my dissertation and applying for clinical internships. My research interests include predictors of cognitive status in older adults and neuropsychological assessment, more broadly. Following a successful dissertation proposal, I plan to collect data from community dwelling older adults and examine associations between their affect, level of engagement with life (i.e., the degree by which they have cognitively stimulating lifestyles), and cognitive functioning (e.g., memory complaints and memory performance based on standardized testing).
Beyond the day-to-day graduate life, I enjoy being outside in nature and taking hikes. I am a huge fan of horseback riding. I love to salsa dance, and I enjoy pretending that I am good at it. Drawing and painting with watercolors are also some of my favorite pastimes, along with chasing and playing with my pet ferret, Curious George.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a large suburban town on the south shore of Long Island, New York with my parents and older sister. My hometown was only an hour train ride to New York City. I lived in the same house throughout my childhood and adolescence, until I moved away for college.
Where did you go to school?
I went to college at State University of New York, at Geneseo. It was a small liberal arts college in Western New York that was surrounded by farmland. My sister went to Geneseo as well, so I followed her footsteps. I also chose Geneseo because it had a great reputation academically, and I liked the idea of living in a rural college town. It was quite different from living in the suburbs of Long Island.
What did you study?
I chose psychology as my major at Geneseo without ever taking a psychology course before. I just knew it was what I wanted to study – I wanted to understand human behavior and use this knowledge to help others. The experience of taking an introductory psychology class further strengthened my passion in this area. I consequently took more psychology classes than necessary, and became a research assistant and a leader in the college’s Psychology Club.
What led you to study aging?
Several years ago, before my senior year at Geneseo, my undergraduate mentor asked me if I would like to be a research assistant for her friend, who was a gerontologist. At the time, I never met a researcher in aging, or studied aging. I accepted the opportunity and found myself enjoying the process of working with older adult research participants. My own personal experiences with my beloved grandparents also directed me to gerontology. My grandmother often noted that her older years were the “best years” of her life; she continues to be a role model for how I would like to live as an older adult. Together, these experiences led me to choosing a gerontology research focus at Wayne State. My graduate research mentor, Dr. John Woodard, introduced me to the IOG, to foster and support my research endeavors in gerontology.
How do you hope to have a positive impact on aging?
As a soon-to-be clinical psychologist, I hope to play a positive role in the field of aging, through research, teaching, clinical practice, and service. Through research, I plan to disseminate evidence for modifiable, lifestyle predictors of cognitive impairment in late life. Through clinical practice, I hope to educate older adults about the effects of normal and abnormal aging on cognition, by providing feedback on their cognitive performance. Overall, these endeavors attempt to directly or indirectly help older adults maintain their cognitive health into their later years. I personally hope to empower older adults to become active, informed, and independent agents in their lives, where possible.
To learn more about our students click here.
To learn more about the IOG click here.
Dr. Neufeld (pictured) presented this conference paper at the Gerontological Society of America annual conference. Using historical data, this paper aims to document the effect of several levels of mutual fund fees and expenses on investment returns. Preliminary results suggest that over typical working careers (30-40 years), the financial services industry captures 70-80% of investment gains, leaving the individual investor with only 20-30%.
- Investments in retirement accounts are plagued by poor returns. An important factor is that, in aggregate, returns of actively managed equity mutual funds trail those of broad market indices.
- This paper partitions the real total return of the S&P 500 into: (1) return to mutual fund investors and (2) return to the financial services industry. The author calculates these shares for all 10-, 20-, 30-, 40-, and 50-year investment periods using data from January 1871 to June 2011.
- The financial services industry share of market returns increases with the length of investment period. For annual performance lags of 250 basis points (bps), the industry share over 10 years is about 46 percent on average; over 50 years it increases to 74 percent.
- Smaller degrees of underperformance increase investor shares substantially: 50-bp lags result in an average investor share of 90 percent for 10-year investment periods and 77 percent after 50 years.
- The shares of market returns to investors and the financial services industry are highly variable for shorter investment periods, but this variability declines as the investment period increases.
- A 100-bp annual lag in performance over 50 years would reduce retirement assets currently held in equities by about $28 trillion (inflation adjusted), an amount almost twice that of the entire U.S. national debt as it currently stands, assuming average market returns.
- The author recommends that pension plan fiduciaries be required to select default investments with a management expense ratio (MER) as low as possible, ideally no greater than 10 bps. Also, financial advisers should direct client funds to similarly low-cost investment vehicles.
To download the full report click here.
Dr. Neufeld is an IOG assistant professor, jointly appointed with the department of anthropology. He has a doctorate in mathematics and his research focuses on retirement security, risk, and financial decision making. To learn more about Dr. Neufeld and his research please visit his profile page here.
- Wear your watch on the opposite wrist that you typically wear it on
- Wear your watch upside down
- Turn picture frames in your house upside down
- Name body parts that have 3 letters in them
- Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand
- Take a walk opposite your normal route
These are some of the challenges posed by our Brain Neurobics coach and expert brain teasers, Cheryl Deep and Donna MacDonald of the Institute of Gerontology. They frequent senior centers posing such challenges to work out the brains of older adults throughout Southeast Michigan based on the research of Dr. Lawrence Katz. I’ve attended quite a few of these programs and been perplexed among the partakers painted with bemused expressions… while we neurobicized together.
Cheryl Deep explains to crowds that activities that challenge your brain provide stimulation of new neurons and pathways from the 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections in the brain. Donna challenges older adults to exercise at least 3 times a week stressing that the brain only represents one to five percent of our body mass but needs 20% of our body’s total oxygen.
When you’re doing your next workout, challenge yourself to do something backwards to exercise your mind as well as your body. Other recommendations from our whistle blowing Neurobics coaches (they don’t actually use a whistle, more a soft spoken warm approach):
- Get plenty of good sleep
- Stay in touch with friends
- Avoid stress
- Stop smoking
- Remember to neurobicize!
For more information on this and other programming visit us here.
To learn more about Cheryl Deep visit her profile page here.
To learn more about Donna Macdonald visit her profile page here.
In academia, many professors remain working and teaching long past traditional retirement age, leaving younger potential professors shut out from highly coveted full-time, tenured positions. As part of a series on older workers, economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on how institutions are negotiating with aging faculty.
View the video: