No. 1195



Back in 1976, I wrote and published a little booklet titled “How to Plan Your Life” for school and college use only. This booklet was designed to help students touch all the bases by answering questions like, Where Am I?, Is It Possible For Me?, Where Do I Start?, Now What?, and Is That All There Is To It? We also wanted to make sure they had every opportunity to be successful in these four major areas of life: Spiritual, Family, Work or School, and Income. However, at that time in life, I really did not know how important it was to plan, especially in the later stages of life.
The reason this is so important, especially for people who live a long time, is that the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are greatly increased. Knowledge and pre-planning can make all the “quality of life” difference in the world.
Because the Lord has been so good to me with good health for over 80 years, I have not been too concerned about this, but recently a good friend by the name of Joe Heird really opened my eyes. Joe had the program at our weekly prayer breakfast, and he has been the caregiver for the past several years for his wife, who has the conditions I just mentioned.
In 2015 there were 2,712,630 deaths in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading causes are: 1. heart disease, 2. cancer, 3.chronic lower respiratory disease, 4. unintentional injuries, 5. Stroke, 6. Alzheimer’s disease, 7. Diabetes mellitus, 8. influenza and pneumonia, 9. nephritis, 10. suicide.
As you just read, Alzheimer’s is number 6 on the list and it really and truly affects the elderly. We need caregivers, and to have some personal knowledge and pre-planning as this will make a big difference. Here are some facts you may not know: 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. These caregivers provide an estimated 18.4 billion hours of care valued at over $323 billion. Between 2000 and 2015, deaths from heart disease have decreased 11 percent, while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 123 percent. Today, one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. While currently there are 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, by the year 2050 that number is expected to rise to 14 million. This is due to the fact we are living longer. As you may know, centenarians are the fastest growing age group in our country.
If you are an older person or have older parents or relatives, and have not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, here are some signs to look for: Memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation to time and place, poor or decreased judgment, problems with keeping track of things, misplaced things, changes in mood or behavior, changes in personality and loss of initiative.
On a personal note, when I knew very little about Alzheimer’s, I had a friend who was developing it and I would hear about him getting in his car and leaving home and not being able to find his way back. Joe told us that his wife has a family history of this dreaded disease and they began to get prepared early on, which has been a big help. They also have four daughters who live close by and they have been a big help by fixing meals and being there for them.
If you want to help someone, other than family, in this condition, take them meals or do other things to help relieve the caretakers, they are very special people.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)