As of January 1 of this year, American baby boomers were turning 70 years-old at a rate of 10,000 daily.
An article in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel called it the beginning of a ‘silver tsunami’ that will continue unabated for the next 19 years.
What makes this remarkable fact so daunting is not just the sheer numbers. It’s the reality that with over 5 million senior citizens currently afflicted with Alzheimer’s and 10 million boomers likely to develop the cruel disease, this is going to be a very challenging time for families.
The story is anchored by the tale of an aging couple with no children. When one of them develops Alzheimer’s, the other cares for her until the pressure of the caregiving dovetails with the loss of her ability to even recognize him. They died together in a camper van parked in the driveway of their home after taking some sedatives and lighting a barbeque stove in the vehicle.
It was a very sad ending for the couple although one most of their friends grimly accepted given that they had no children and limited support.
According to a recent report by the Alzheimer’s Association the impact on caregivers is immense:
- Nearly three out of five caregivers rated their stress as high or very high.
- About 40% suffer from depression.
- More than 40% polled in 2014 said they alone provided unpaid care.
- The chronic stress of caregiving is linked to heart disease and impaired kidney function.
- The health of people with dementia may be linked to their caregivers’ risk of dying. In one study, the caregivers of hospitalized spouses with dementia were more likely to die the following year than those whose hospitalized spouses did not have dementia.
If there’s a takeaway from this story, it’s the importance of doing end-of-life planning to ensure that in the face of such life challenges that you have the resources to care for a loved one.
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To read the entire Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel article, please click here.