By 2050, the number of people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s or dementia is expected to jump from 5 million to 15 million. More startling, new research shows that half of medical professionals are not equipped to effectively care for these patients. In response, public health experts are recommending additional dementia training for doctors and nurses. This training would enable medical professionals to recognize and treat dementia in a more effective way. Currently, dementia care is relegated to specialties that regularly treat elderly patients. Toni Miles, a dementia researcher at the University of Georgia, explained that “limiting dementia to a specialty care scenario creates a barrier to optimal training and ultimately, quality patient care.”
Aisha Adkins are among the millions of Americans who have first-hand experience managing dementia. A young, millennial women of 35 years old, Aisha lives at home as a full-time caregiver for her mother who was diagnosed with dementia 8 years ago. In her testimony, she describes not only the physical toll of being a caregiver, but also the impact it has had on her mental and emotional wellbeing. At times, she has found it difficult to sleep soundly or connect with friends. These concerns have now been exasperated with the looming uncertainty of COVID-19 and her identity as a Black woman.
Aisha did not have the luxury of choosing to become a caregiver. Instead, it was thrust upon her. Day-in and day-out, she works tirelessly to provide the highest quality of care she can offer her mother. She reminds and inspires us to go the extra mile in the face of adversity and uncertainty. The ability to recognize dementia early in a person’s life could have long-lasting effects on their quality of life, as well as the wellbeing of their loved ones like Aisha. As such, the call for more dementia-based education and awareness may be well-warranted and long overdue.
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