INDIANA (WANE) — With November being recognized across the United States as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, how is Indiana impacted by the disease?

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is “a progressive disease that begins with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.”

Alzheimer’s disease mainly affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language and is the most common type of dementia, which is a group of diseases that impact at least two brain functions. The most common functions affected tend to be memory, judgment and language.

Indiana’s Statistics and Caregiving

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 110,000 people aged 65 and older were living with Alzheimer’s in Indiana according to 2020 data, with 11.2% of people 45 and older having subjective cognitive decline. According to data collected by the Alzheimer’s Association 6.7 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s in America.

The issue faced by this disease plaguing the state of Indiana is the lack of professional help available to those struggling with the disease. In the state of Indiana, there are a total of 66 Geriatricians in 2021, meaning that the increase needed to meet the projected demand by 2050 is 353%. As a result of this large gap in the healthcare field, a lot of caregiving relies on unpaid caregivers.

Indiana has a high rate of unpaid caregivers, which often are family or friends of the individual who act as live-in help according to 2022 Alzheimer’s statistics. As of 2022, 216,000 people took up the caregiver position for a person struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. This accounts for 321 million hours of unpaid care, with 34.1% of the caregivers struggling with depression.

This increase in unpaid caregivers comes from a place of need for qualified caregivers, which has a 353% increase needed to meet the demand of those struggling with the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter said that it is important for these caregivers to balance tasks of both caregiving and personal health and well-being.

“Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s takes longer, lasts longer, is more personal and intrusive than most other diseases, and takes a heavy toll on the health of the caregivers themselves,” said Natalie Sutton, executive director of Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter. “During the course of the disease, caregiving tasks escalate and become more intensive. Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are often managing multiple conditions, including memory loss, comorbidities, loss of mobility, reduced communication skills and behavioral and personality changes.”

What can be done to help?

The Alzheimer’s Association has a giant list of resources for those struggling with the disease, acting as caregivers to someone with the disease, and even someone wanting to take preventative measures. The association offers programs and support for those struggling with the disease and those acting as caregivers while offering resources to plan for the future when it comes to the progression of the disease.

While Alzheimer’s and other dementia umbrella diseases cannot be prevented steps can be taken to preserve or better brain health. The association suggests adopting a healthy diet, staying physically active and staying mentally and socially active.

For more information about the disease and how you can support those affected head to the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.