The numbers are astounding!
Every three seconds someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia. Nearly 50 million people worldwide have dementia and this number is projected to be 75 million in just ten years!
Dementia is a huge problem for those family members assisting, and directly impacts financial service companies, healthcare providers and anyone in the “value chain” of the victim. Not only is there an alarming dearth of activity that can be done for those affected by dementia, but organizations, businesses, neighborhoods, communities, cities, states and regions either have little knowledge and little interest in how this epidemic can ultimately impact them.
I offered to speak to a local Chamber of Commerce about these issues. The person who decides on the speakers said that this topic does not affect their members! And, a gated community recently protested a homeowner as a “nuisance” who was caring for demented individuals, claiming this would likely drive home values down.
It is bad enough for the “AARP Bulletin” to run a cover story in their January/-February 2020 edition emphasizing the need to end the last acceptable bias in the workforce (ageism) and published a report (and summary by Joe Kita) at https://www.aarp.org/work/working-at-50-plus/info-2019/age-discrimination-in-america.html. An even more damning report was issued last year by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) that underscores the extent of the problem https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/adea50th/report.cfm.
So, everyone gets older, if we are lucky. But one “strike” against you is your age and the 2nd “strike” is coming down with the early signs of a debilitating and chronic illness such as dementia. The 3rd “strike” against you can range from dying poor, alone and on the streets, being unable to work, earn an income, participate in social networks, having healthcare and enjoying the dignity of a job.
I know because I struggle against all three. Two years ago, after recuperating from a fall down some stairs, I asked my doctors to write a letter to our Head of Human Resources requesting leniency in turnaround time for me for documents I was reviewing. My employer said I could take a pay cut of 50%, even though I paid out of pocket for uncovered therapies and less money made no sense) and reduce my load of a handful of fewer students, but the turnaround times would still stand.
I was never informed of filing for disability (that I paid for separately from our healthcare provider) or workman’s compensation and was let go ten weeks later along with five of my “older” colleagues. I had been diagnosed with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury); I was still on track to set performance records that have not been seen either before, or after. Such is life in “At Will” states like Arizona.
Think of the impact on your career, family and friends if a member of your family is suddenly diagnosed with dementia. You become a full-time caregiver (truly, as anyone who has done it will say, caregiving is the hardest job you will ever do with little to no compensation). The irony of caring for a loved one while you are employed is clear. Your employment to pay bills may suffer, or you are terminated while caring for a loved one. Then there is the more capacious impact on the community or society, consequences that may be unintended, or not.
In future blogs, I will cover the caregiver crisis around the world through a series of writings. In our book, “Confronting Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias: An Evidenced-based Holistic Guide” (now, available for $9.99 as an eBook) from https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08376T9M4 where we discuss the cost of caregiving and cite the most recent (over 10 years old) study by MetLife https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/mmi-caregiving-costs-working-caregivers.pdf . There has been little research in the area since.
I close out this blog post from the Executive Summary of the MetLife Report on caregiving.
Nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 care for their aging parents.
These family caregivers are themselves aging as well as providing care at a time
when they also need to be planning and saving for their own retirement. The
MetLife Study of “Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers: Double Jeopardy for
Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents” was produced by the MetLife Mature
Market Institute in partnership with the National Alliance for Caregiving and
the Center for Long Term Care Research and Policy at New York Medical College.
The study analyzes data from the 2008 panel of the National Health and
Retirement Study (HRS) combined with estimates to determine the extent to
which older adult children provide care to their parents, the roles gender and
work play in that caregiving, and the potential cost to the caregiver in lost
wages and future retirement income as a result of their support (p 2, MetLife 2011).
This was an important study and will have many additional ramifications through the years.