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Raising Awareness on the Fight against Ageing and Dementia

Dementia

Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide, according to the WHO report. In many cases, there is not an adequate access to support or to care that will help the elderly during their prolonged illness, and families often do not have the support they need to help with care at home. 

Because of the increasing life expectancy worldwide, people are experiencing unprecedented longevity. The report “Dementia: a public health priority” published today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), estimates that the total number of people with dementia worldwide in 2010 is 35.6 million and will be almost double in 20 years’ time. The total number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide is nearly 7.7 million; one new case every four seconds.

Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide, according to the report. In many cases, there is not an adequate access to support or to care that will help the elderly during their prolonged illness, and families often do not have the support they need to help with care at home.

Dementia is a costly condition which has social, economic, and health repercussions. Nearly 60 percent of the burden of dementia is in low and middle-income countries and this is likely to increase in coming years. Margaret Chan, the Director General of World Health Organization, stated that the cost of caring for people with dementia is likely to rise even faster than its prevalence, therefore it is important to address the social and economic burden caused by the illness.


The fight against Dementia

When someone is diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, they are not the only ones who are affected. Their families and people that care for them are also fiercely impacted by the disease. Through the MIND campaign (Making an Impact on Neurodegenerative Diseases), GE Healthcare acknowledges these efforts.

GE Healthcare employees are aware of the impact that neurodegenerative diseases can have, not only because of the work they do at the Company but also because some of them have first-hand experience.

Bob Schwartz is the General Manager of Global Design at GE Healthcare. He speaks about his families’ experience with dementia and how the disease can happen to anyone. About five years ago his stepfather was diagnosed with dementia. “This is a guy who went to the Wharton School of Business, was the chief auditor for the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and had other corporate jobs during his career. He’s at a stage now where he can still do some amazing things, but he can’t figure out how to make oatmeal in the morning, something he’s done for 30 years,” Schwartz explained. Schwartz said that his stepfather is able to drive and has cognitive ability, but sometimes struggles to complete simple tasks.

Schwartz talks about how the disease takes its’ toll on families as well as dementia sufferers; His mother suffers from physical impediments, and is the primary care giver at the age of 81. “It’s a real challenge,” said Schwartz. “The house is covered with notes to get Jerry to remember where he’s supposed to go and what he’s supposed to do… but we need another caregiver to tell him to read the notes at this stage.”

“The terrible challenge is that the stress on my mom is way more than the stress on him. Managing his depression over this is more challenging than the disease process,” he said. “What I see is my mother declining far faster than my stepdad.”

Carol Shillinglaw’ mother has Alzheimer’s disease. “We are beyond the short term memory loss to really losing some major memories and the familiarity with places and people,” she said.

The whole family is helping to take care of her mother, and Carol spoke about the changes that her mother was going through. “My mom was my idol, the master of all things, she was always there. She’s not always there anymore; I can’t call her up and have a mother-daughter conversation. I’ll never have that again.”

“The hardest part for me right now is that she knows. She knows that her memory is gone. At the same time I think to myself, is it going to be better when she doesn’t know? It could be a blessing if it’s easier for her, but what is that going to do for us?” she said.

Carol talked about how everyone she knows is affected, or knows someone that has been affected by this disease. She said that every story is different, but it gives her some level of comfort to know that she’s not alone.

Carol looks towards the future. She hopes that new investigation in dementia will yield results and spread awareness about the disease. She talked about eating right, diabetes and healthy living related to this disease. “If people don’t know the relationship, why would they do anything different?” she said. “It’s important to educate and spread awareness.”


MIND, Making an Impact on Neurodegenerative Disease

The MIND Online campaign allows patients, caregivers and families to share their stories about how neurodegenerative diseases have affected their lives, and what they would do to make a difference. 

Whatever your age, now is the time to kick-start healthy living. More information is available than ever before about methods to train your mind and body to help conserve cognitive ability and possibly delay the risk of developing some of the cognitive ailments that can appear with advanced age.