Alzheimer’s disease is an area of heightened focus for professionals with a Master of Public Health (MPH), PhD in Public Health, or professional doctoral degree in public health (DrPH). The Alzheimer’s Association reports that an estimated 5.2 million Americans have the disease, and as the baby boomer generation continues to age, the statistics indicate a public health crisis:*
- 11% of people (1 in 9) age 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
- 32% of people (1 in 3) age 85 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
- 82% of those with Alzheimer’s are age 75 or older.
In 2013, Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia received an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care at home instead of at senior living communities (which often feature memory care support), and that care comes primarily from immediate family members.* As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s leaves its victims increasingly confused, making home safety a big issue.
Caregivers often feel as though they need to move at 100 mph and be everywhere at once. A few steps to simplify things around the house will make life easier—and safer—for everyone. Here are a few recommendations:†
Simplify furniture layout and limit clutter so your loved one can move around more freely.
Remove throw rugs that could hinder traction while walking through the house.
Place emergency phone numbers in easy-to-read places, written in large type.
Upgrade the stove with safety knobs, and consider gates and safety rails.
Lock up all medications, alcohol, dangerous cleaners, firearms, and knives.
Reset the water heater to 120°F and label hot-water faucets.
Regularly check your refrigerator for food that has spoiled.
With such a significant number of families affected by Alzheimer’s disease—and so many making the compassionate yet difficult choice to care for a beloved senior at home instead of moving them to a nursing home or memory care community—public health degree programs and agencies will continue to focus on caregiving for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
*Alzheimer’s Association, 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Volume 10, Issue 2 (pp. 16, 29–32), on the Internet at www.alz.org/downloads/Facts_Figures_2014.pdf.
†National Institute on Aging, Caring for a Person with Alzheimer's Disease: Your Easy-to-Use Guide from the National Institute on Aging, on the Internet at https://d2cauhfh6h4x0p.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/caring-for-a-person-with-alzheimers-disease.pdf.