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Is Dementia A Public Health Priority?

For many years, researchers have attempted to study the complexity of the brain in connection with Dementia. The original goal was to understand what was causing the brain to break down and provide a medication that could help stop, prevent, or slow the process in the least. That approach has failed. Raising money through walks for a cure must be transformed into something more actionable.

Researchers now understand that they must focus on the precursors to this silent killer that Dementia has become. With over 100 different types and variations, it is difficult to understand and pinpoint one culprit. The picture painted from a capitalistic society begs the question: Do you think Dementia should be a public health priority?

Should the public be more aware of daily habits they could change to prevent the rising Dementia related statistics? The brain is still such a complex human-computer that we cannot take it apart and put it back together until after death. How can we protect ourselves from becoming another statistic? Rather than focus only on the brain, we must focus on what is affecting the brain negatively. Our vascular system, inflammation, and environment are essential to better understanding.

The more we can learn from real caregiver experiences, the closer we will be to slow the statistics and creating a cultural shift. Dementia, which includes Alzheimer's, is a disease of accountability, and we are the only ones that can stop it.

Unfortunately, the silver tsunami is here with younger caregivers than expected. The younger the parent, the younger the caregiver, which means foregoing college or creating a life for young adults. A career starting far later also means losing valuable time to begin retirement savings and more of a financial disaster in the present. Dementia creates an ugly cycle many do not see coming until it's too late.

The facts remain as Betsy, and I get into the details without approaching politics. 1 in 3 is diagnosed with some kind of Dementia which means our genes no longer take precedence. Younger people are finding out they have a form of Dementia which should be changing how we look at this process of deterioration. How are we living so differently than we did twenty to thirty years ago?

I have seen that we label every type of neurological disorder or malfunction and leave it up to the patient to resolve or schedule more tests. It depends on a patient's level of insurance and the availability of more than adequate services available in the geographical area. If it is up to the patient to resolve, they typically are unaware of the many different types of Dementia, how they present, or what they could be changing to prevent further damage. If a doctor is knowledgeable enough about a patient's prognosis, they have to put in more time than the rat race of shuffling patients in/out of the office for billable insurance coding allows.

Either way, the patient and family caregiver take on a burden that neither is prepared to handle. Even as Betsy Wurzel, radio and talk show host of Chatting with Betsy on Passionate World Talk Radio, understood what could be done for her husband as an LVN, the reality was heartbreakingly opposite.

We all want to blame someone else when this silent killer is finally known. Before, we could blame our genetics and look the other way. Now we must accept that we are more than our genes and our choices matter. As Betsy states, "we need to come out of the Dementia closets." It's time to question our environments in what may be causing gradual declines. It's time to be proactive and stop being reactive because the struggle is real. The heartbreak is a little more devastating once we discover it could have been prevented.

Even if you find yourself reading this blog and thinking I don't have anything to worry about, consider your loved ones - your parents, spouse, children, or siblings. As it stands now, there are not enough assisted living or memory care communities to handle the silver tsunami. The available ones are above and beyond what the average middle-class wage earner can afford. Dementia affects more than the brain because it changes a way of life financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

So, what do you think? Should Dementia be more of a public health priority? One phrase from my high school coach comes to mind – "Failing to plan is planning to fail." This sentiment hits home in my middle-aged caregiving years more than ever.

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