Coping with Alzheimer's disease

It’s a troubling question for many – what would you do if you had to become the caretaker of a loved one with Alzheimer's? Millions of people are affected by the disease. Check to see how your area is affected here: -- by clicking the map you get facts and figures state by state.

Plus the number is only going to multiply in the coming years.

Cindy Walker was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s seven years ago after her husband, Andrew, noticed something was wrong during a family game of “sorry."

“She got to the point where she didn’t know where to put the pegs,” Andrew recalls.

Cindy is not alone. Alzheimer's affects nearly five million people right now and every day the number grows.

“This is projected to increase to 20 or 30 million in the near future,” said Dr. Scott Turner Georgetown University Medical Center.

Once they got the diagnosis Andrew enrolled his wife in medical studies to help learn more about the disease. Cindy plays Wii Fit to work on her balance and she practices counting money and even writing her name.

“If you do nothing, your outcome is obvious,” Andrew said.

Even though the disease is costing Americans $226 billion, Dr. Turner says Americans are not prepared for the incoming “silver tsunami” of new Alzheimer’s cases.

“It falls on the family to provide a caregiver and only when you become poverty stricken do you qualify for nursing home placement thru Medicaid,” Turner said.

Andrew has received virtually no financial help for Cindy, but has recently taken on a paid caregiver to ease the stress.

“If you tried to do it yourself it would be a 36 hour a day job,” Andrew said.

But he knows that is the reality for many. In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Association says families provided nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care, that’s care valued at $218 billion.

For now, Andrew says his goal is to keep Cindy comfortable and not to worry about extra help he may need down the line. “I’m thankful for today,” he said.

The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is aging. After age 65, your risk increases dramatically, every five years.

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