The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Reframing the conversation

The typical narratives of Alzheimer’s Disease are bleak: sufferers and their caregivers alike staggering through a darkening spiral of disorientation and  suffering, of relationships dissolving into oblivian, of an imminent end.
While these tales may be palpable, they aren’t doing any huge favors as we enter the age of Alzheimer’s, the experts say. The doomsday public relations campaigns have a chilling effect. 
“We know from research that people more afraid of getting Alzheimer’s than they are of getting cancer,” Fitzgerald-Campbell said. “That goes to the fear of losing your sense of self. One big negative that goes with that attitude is people then don’t seek out a diagnosis and get help as soon as could.” 
The Alzheimer’s Association’s goal it to try and reframe the story. It is launching a new initiative on a pilot basis first in Massachusetts, and then in New Hampshire. It’s going to be called The Power and Purpose Program. The notion is: yes, you have Alzheimer’s, but you can still live your life today and you can still be engaged. The Alzheimer’s Association will be setting up groups to help people have active social lives. 
Advocates want the initiative to take some of the scariness out of the disease because the earlier sufferers get help, the more chance symptoms will be slowed, they will suffer less depression and they will live fuller lives longer. 
Alzheimer’s can be part of someone’s life for anywhere from 8 to 20 years. 
“That’s a long piece of people’s lives, so we do want to reframe that,” Fitzgerald-Campbell said. “I think that scary story does not serve any of us.”
For additional resources on Alzheimer’s disease, visit The Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 helpline is 1-800-272-3900.

Alzheimer’s and an aging population
How the state is preparing for impending jump in number of patients


Alzheimer’s Disease affects roughly 1 percent of 65-year-olds and 3 percent of 70-year-olds. By the time a person reaches 85 years old, there is about a 50-percent chance he will have Alzheimer’s. 

Those are troubling statistics for New Hampshire’s aging population.
By 2030, more than a quarter of the population will be 60 or older. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 22,000 people in New Hampshire have Alzheimer’s, a disease that causes damage to the brain that results in memory loss, decreased learning capabilities, mood and behavioral changes and eventually death. If no cures or treatment are developed, that number is expected to triple to about 66,000 by 2050. 
Preparing for more patients
“There is a mushrooming of people who are older and that’s the baby boomer generation,” Fitzgerald-Campbell said. “If we don’t find effective treatment the numbers could triple. That’s a big impact on society, the health care institution, the nation’s finances.”
   In terms of dollars alone, in 2014 caring for people with Alzheimer’s is estimated to cost $214 billion nationally, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. By 2050, the figure is estimated to jump to $1.2 trillion. 
New Hampshire lawmakers have begun to confront the issue by establishing ways to increase awareness and support. 
In March, House Bill 1572 established a permanent subcommittee of the Health and Human Services oversight committee relative to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. It is composed of doctors, nurses, representatives from Veterans Affairs, people with dementia, family members of people with dementia and members of the legislature. 
“The nice part about it is it really takes a pretty comprehensive look at where we need to go,” said Heather Carroll,  New Hampshire’s regional manager for the Alzheimer’s Association. “That’s going to help us zero in and focus on where the need is … if it needs to be legislated, we’ll go that way.”
The next piece of legislation will probably have to do with universal guardianship — proposing a law that would allow guardians in New Hampshire to maintain their guardianship status should their loved one be moved out of state, Carroll said. 
“Often times what we hear is the sister we haven’t heard from in two years came and took mom out of the nursing home and took her to Florida. What can we do?”  she said. “It’s a little scary.” 
House Bill 1572 also requires the Police Standards and Training Council to provide training to the law enforcement community on Alzheimer’s Disease. Advocates say there are many instances of police officers, EMTs and other emergency responders asking how to handle people with dementia wandering off. As of 2015 police will be required to take a two-hour training session dedicated solely to dementia. 
Continuing to increase public awareness is a major focus amongst Alzheimer’s support organizations.
“I’ve been working here for nine years. At the time I started working her,  you’d see a couple stories about it. Now it’s every day,”  Fitzgerald-Campbell said. “Public awareness ... means more people are getting diagnosed, and it’s more likely they will have a slightly improved experience with the disease.”
Risk to those who live alone
Another piece of the puzzle that may need to be addressed: research shows New Hampshire has more instances of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who are living alone than any other state.
“The general landscape of New Hampshire is we have a lot of rural areas where people are a little bit more independant, and have always been independent,  so I think that just naturally happens,” Carroll said. “I also think a lot of the true snowbirders at one point in time are not traveling to Florida anymore.” 
In these cases, elderly people may not be diagnosed until there is an extreme situation, like dehydration or a fall. Normally, the Alzheimer’s Association receives a spike of concerned calls during the holidays, too, because people are seeing their loved ones for the first time in perhaps years. 
“All of a sudden it’s like holy moly, mom is hoarding food, or only living on the first floor of her home, which isn’t working, or mom’s memory isn’t what it used to be,” Carroll said.  
As seen in the October 16, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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