The numbers are startling: 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Three times as many Americans are caring for someone with the disease. And there are more than 225 ongoing clinical research studies to help those suffering with Alzheimer’s.
In Oregon, there are more than 65,000 who have Alzheimer’s, expected to grow to 84,000 in just the next six years. Two-thirds of them are women.
Who is caring for those with Alzheimer’s? Two-thirds of caregivers are women, with one-third of them the daughters of those with the disease. It’s a busy, mentally exhausting and sometimes unforgiving assignment.
Jane Jarman understands. She was a caregiver for her mother and has spent her career helping others. Now, she has developed a social model at the Lake Oswego Community Center that acts as a shining example for what this country needs. Since 1993, Lake Oswego’s Respite Recreation programs have offered meaningful socialization for adults with early and moderate cognitive impairment.
Men and women with dementia who join the programs are offered four hours of exceptional activities designed for them, including lunch. Each program is limited to 12 participants and is designed to improve their quality of life while providing caregivers a block of time away from the stresses of caregiving responsibilities. Participants do not need to live in Lake Oswego. Cost starts at $30 per session and registration is required. Scholarships are available.
To design the program, Jarman used her previous experience as a personal trainer who focused on strength, balance and fitness; and working as an activity coordinator at two assisted living facilities.
She has been a housing advisor for older adults, helping place loved ones in retirement facilities; served on the Meals on Wheels board of directors; and is an adult respite day instructor. Cognitive decline, she says, is a national crisis that needs more awareness and research.
“There are a number of assumptions about what causes it, but no scientific answers,” says Jarman, who frequently shares her knowledge about the disease to benefit caregivers and their loved ones, including recommendations for assisted living.
“This is a definite crisis,” she says. “There is not enough care for dementia and this is the tip of the iceberg.”
According to the Lund Report, the total national cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated at $277 billion, which does not include unpaid caregiving. Of that amount, $186 billion was the cost to Medicare and Medicaid in 2018.
But to those who attend the respite care programs in Lake Oswego, national costs mean little. Because socialization is paramount, the program offers members a friendly interchange where they can laugh and tell stories past and current. Participants enjoy a three-course meal, brain games and memory exercises, music and horticultural therapy, arts and crafts, pet-assisted therapy and the camaraderie of peer support.
Most of those who attend the Lake Oswego programs are men, Jarman says. They include retired engineers, professors, a heart surgeon and others. “It’s not a kindergarten class,” she says. “Those who come are treated with respect and dignity.”
Caregivers also have a support group that meets the third Wednesday of every month. The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center helps coordinate information and referrals as well as recommends caregivers who come to the home. Clinical trials More than 200 clinical trials are available.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, without clinical trials, “there can be no better treatments, no prevention and no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Today’s greatest obstacle is trial participants other than funding. Individuals with dementia, caregivers and healthy volunteers are urgently needed for trials focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementia.”