As the number of aging baby boomers rises, statistics show that the number of cases of dementia is also increasing. This rise in dementia, a term for impaired ability to think, remember, or make decisions, is raising questions for boomers themselves and their families, caregivers, and society.
New research from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) has found that over the past 20 years or so, the risk for U.S. men and women suffering from cognitive impairment and dementia has increased quite dramatically. It was shown that approximately 5% of those aged 71 to 79 have dementia, and about 37% of those about 90 years old live with it daily.
The need to understand dementia and how it affects society is more critical than ever as it currently affects over five million people in the U.S. who now live with dementia and their caregivers. This number is expected to triple by 2060.
Normal Memory Loss
It is normal to experience many physical and cognitive changes as we age, including experiencing a decrease in recall memory. Forgetting someone’s name who you haven’t seen in years, or having trouble recalling a memory from decades earlier is considered “normal” and can be expected as part of the changes that come with aging.
The problem comes when memory starts to affect everyday life. Forgetting the name of someone you see every day or forgetting how to get to a place you visit frequently should be cause for concern. Many times, people with dementia eventually have problems with activities of daily life, such as eating, dressing, and hygiene.
When memory loss starts to interfere with daily activities, it is time to speak to your doctor. There are many types of severe memory loss, and it is essential to get the right treatment for each type. Dementia tends to be a slow-moving progression that occurs over months or even years. In contrast, delirium is more sudden and can occur over days or even hours. This is normally accompanied by an acute illness. Depression can also cause memory loss, especially in older people.
All these conditions can be frightening, so it is important to discuss any changes you notice in your memory or thinking with your doctor. This is the first step toward making sure your mental health is the best it can be and the best way to slow the progression. Dementia is a severe medical condition and should be diagnosed as soon as possible.
With the aging population and the rise in dementia, a burden is expected on family members, Medicare and Medicaid. A study conducted in 2018 estimated that the lifetime cost of care for a person with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, to be US$329,360. These are the reasons why it is so important for researchers to continue their work in finding treatments and preventions to help slow the progression of memory-related illness.