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Alzheimer’s, Other Ailments Figure to Be Severe Problems in So. Maryland

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on July 21, 2006:

Senator Dyson We are all affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that predominately strike the elderly. By this, I mean that all of us have a family member or friend who has been afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Before mid-century there will be 4,000 cases of Alzheimer’s in each of the Southern Maryland Counties. Since each case affects personally at least four people, such as a spouse, child and friend, we are talking about nearly 50,000 Southern Marylanders that will be intimately touched by this 21st Century scourge.

I was recently visited by my good friend, Dr. Ted Grant, a retired psychologist now actively working on issues related to aging. Dr. Grant is a resident of Calvert County who does a great job at the Department of Aging in St. Mary’s County where he is their consultant on aging issues.

According to Dr. Grant, incidences of Alzheimer’s disease will rise by 200 percent in St. Mary’s, 230 percent in Charles and more than 230 percent in Calvert County by the year 2030.

The estimated yearly cost of care for Alzheimer’s treatment in 2030 for St. Mary’s alone is slated at $100 million dollars. This will also be true for Calvert County and Charles.

Dr. Grant said that we still don’t understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease after 100 years of work There is, however, research that suggests, in addition to biological changes in brain physiology, life-style choices such as education, exercise and diet positively affect the course of the disease. Remaining socially connected and involved in the community also seems to be protective. “It’s not all genes,” he said.

“Maintaining physical energy, a positive attitude, close friends and a community connection contribute to longevity, quality of life and will-to-live,” according to Dr. Grant. “While individuals need to assess their own roles in these goals, the social structures of government and culture need to be examined for their contributions to successful aging and efficient and cost-effective services. It will be a cooperative effort that will require the best of the retiring generation and thoughtful and creative administration of limited resources. Basing the process on scientific research and the experience of agency staff members with their institutional memory will allow for evolution and development of programs [to address this disease]. The challenges will be great and the opportunities for creative solutions will be manifold.”

Government agencies are becoming acutely aware of the coming “senior tsunami” that will envelop the developed and developing nations in this century. This is because of better medical attention, better diet and antibiotics.

Biblical life expectancy was about 25; currently it is 77 and climbing. In a 300 page report, the President’s Council on Bioethics addresses the coming mass geriatric society and the acute shortage of nursing home beds and caregivers that will be problems in the near future. Twenty percent of us will be retired in the near future and 70 percent of the federal budget will be earmarked for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Boomers have a history of high energy and may well be needed to shoulder some of the burdens of the aging crisis. Fortunately, staying active socially and being community-involved is good for our health.

The Departments of Aging in each of the Southern Maryland counties conduct many information, exercise and nutrition groups to help individuals and social agencies cope with the coming mass geriatric society. Dr. Grant conducts an Alzheimer’s caregivers’ group at the Garvey Senior Center in Leonardtown and also meets with a group of seniors who want to continue their growth and development as they age. Both meet alternately on Mondays. The telephone number for Garvey is (301) 475-4200, ext. 1050.

An Alzheimer’s Caregivers’ group meets at Calvert Pines as well. The contact is Ann Newton (410) 535-4606. Charles County Department of Aging phone number is (301) 934-9305, ext. 1.

The Southern Maryland Alzheimer’s Association is (301) 934-5856 and the contact name is Dorothy Flynn. They offer a series of services for Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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