Live Vibrantly - September 29, 2020
By Kathie Miller
Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. It takes about three seconds to read the previous sentence, so just in the time you’re reading the first, short paragraph of this article, three people will have developed dementia.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Because of this, it is often misunderstood and stigmatized. And because it is misunderstood and stigmatized, people often downplay or even hide it if they think it might be happening to them or a loved one.
According to Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 persons aged 65 and older is living with dementia. At present in the United States, 5.7 million people are living with the disease; another 16.1 million people provide unpaid care to help them—that’s a total of 21.8 million Americans who are grappling with the challenges of dementia. The current pandemic has intensified some of their challenges.
Raising awareness of dementia is a simple step we can all take to help.
Every September, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) organizes a campaign to raise awareness about dementia. Calling upon a worldwide network of organizations, ADI encourages a range of activities that foster greater understanding and challenge the stigma of dementia. While Goodwin House is not directly affiliated with ADI, we benefit from their resources as we also aim to bring our communities together to address issues and concerns related to dementia.
Addressing concerns related to dementia is a key focus at Goodwin House. We ensure that our staff are all trained in dementia awareness, and our Dementia Advance Team was recognized by LeadingAge Virginia as the first recipient of the Dementia Friends Champion of the Year Award.
Goodwin House is dedicated to doing our part in raising awareness and reducing the stigma associated with dementia.
Before there was a month dedicated to raising awareness, ADI marked its 10th anniversary by launching the first World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21) in 1994. As this day of awareness grew in scope and reach, ADI expanded its efforts and started World Alzheimer’s Month in 2012.
In 2019, more than 90 countries participated in this month-long campaign. Around the globe, people are realizing the reach and impact this condition can have. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes dementia as a matter of public health, as evidenced by the 2017 release of the WHO global action plan.
Statistics can go a long way in helping to illustrate the impact of conditions such as dementia. Here are some international numbers to help present the picture of what we face together, globally (sourced from ADI):
While most of us hear about dementia more and more all the time, there is still a considerable amount of misunderstanding and misinformation about it.
As the ADI writes: “Dementia is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behavior and emotion. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common types of dementia, responsible for up to 90% of cases of dementia.”
The symptoms of dementia include:
You can also learn more about dementia from the Alzheimer’s Organization, which offers a wealth of resources as well.
Every person diagnosed with dementia experiences it in their own way, but over time, they will become incapable of taking care of themselves and will require assistance with even the most basic activities of daily living. While there are currently no cures for dementia, there are treatments and support that can make a difference in the lives of those living with the condition. One support is our StrongerMemory program.
Dementia can affect anyone. It does not have boundaries. As the condition progresses, dementia has an impact on not just those diagnosed with it, but those around them. Family members often find themselves in the role of caregivers, and as mentioned above, this can take a toll on their health and wellbeing, too.
This year has presented many unprecedented challenges around the globe. Due to stay at home orders and social distancing, the current pandemic has had a profound effect on those living with dementia.
As Paola Barbarino, CEO Alzheimer’s Disease International, writes: “2020 is such a crucial year for raising awareness about a group who are most susceptible to facing severe symptoms of COVID-19 as well as social isolation. Please do everything you can to get people talking about dementia.”
At Goodwin House, dementia has been part of what we do since we first opened our doors in 1967. Realizing the increasing impact it will have on all our lives, we launched more focused efforts around dementia in 2018, with the creation of our Dementia Advance Team.
This interdisciplinary team is engaged in a range of activities and meets regularly to share insights, learn from one another and consider new projects and tools Goodwin House might bring to our care and services. If you have a concern or idea you’d like to share with us, please reach out.
As Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications, Kathie Miller provides strategic guidance and tactical support for all areas of Goodwin House. She writes, edits and manages The Good Life blog and newsletter. Kathie joined GHI in 2014 after nearly 15 years at NPR, where she honed her skills in brand and reputation management, content marketing and internal communications. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kathie has slowly come to realize she’s lived in Arlington for more than half her life and should call herself a Virginian. She enjoys the outdoors and brings her rescue dog, Remi, to work every day.