The Biggest Fear of Boomers: Alzheimer's Disease
Most will be effected in some way: Either they will have it or they will be caring for someone who has it
A 2011 report by the Alzheimer's Association called "Generation Alzheimer's: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers" projects that about one in eight Boomers over age 65 will develop Alzheimer's. For those that make it age 85, the rate will be about 1 in 2. There is no way to prevent it, cure it, or significantly slow it. For the Boomer generation who has made their mark by changing everything they possibly could, this is a frightening concept.
Those that escape the disease may find themselves caring for someone with it be it a spouse, sibling, or parent. In 2009, 11 million care givers provided 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care to family members and friends. The value of this care is estimated at $144 billion. For the caregiver this translates to both a financial and an emotional burden.
November is Alzheimer's Awareness month. It's likely you have patients with Alzheimer's and patients who care for a person with this disease. In many cases, people in the early stages of Alzheimer's will still be able to come to a dental practice for care likely in the company of a caregiver. In the later stages, it may not be possible for them physically or emotionally to be treated in a traditional practice.
What is our role as dental professionals? In terms of oral health care, we want to make sure those in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's and their caregivers understand how important it is to take care of problems sooner rather than later. It may be difficult in the later stages to know if the patient is suffering from dental problems and from a physical and emotional context, they may be challenging to treat. The caregiver can help with reminders to practice daily self-care. If the individual with Alzheimer's is not using a sonic toothbrush or a Water Flosser, now may be a good time to introduce these products. Later, when the individual loses the ability to use the devices themselves, they will not be startled if the caregiver uses the products on them. For caregivers, a Cordless Water Flosser may be the tool of choice as the patient can hold a bowl in their lap either while sitting in bed or in a chair; and neither needs to be in the bathroom.