As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the number of individuals with cognitive decline increases, a finding reported by the Cognitive Module in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. “Unfortunately, the number of people affected by dementia is growing at an alarming rate as the baby boomer population grows older,” said Richard Elbein, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Associate, Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter.
Considering just Texan responders, 12.6% of 60+ years-old individuals surveyed reported signs of dementia, and 40% of those individuals said their confusion and memory loss interferes with daily activities. Yet only 20% of Texans with memory problems have discussed their symptoms with a health care provider. “Most people don’t know when forgetting becomes a serious health problem,” said Elbein. “By putting off learning more about their condition, people impacted by dementia are being diagnosed too late and miss the opportunity to get the best help possible.”
Twenty-one states, including Texas, were part of the survey, and the population statistics closely follow the Texas sample: 13% of older Americans had worsening memory problems and 33% noticed interference with daily life. Texan data was collected through a collaboration among the Department of State Health Services Alzheimer’s Disease Program, the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Fortunately, the concern of a growing population with dementia is being addressed: volunteer members of the associations are implementing the 2010-2015 Texas State Plan on Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a set of guidelines designed to assist health care providers detect, diagnose, and treat Alzheimer’s Disease. There are approximately 340,000 Texans living with Alzheimer’s, and that leads to approximately 1,294,000 unpaid Texan caregivers. The best advice to alleviate these numbers comes from Elbein: “If you notice signs of memory loss in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. See your doctor for a checkup.”