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Tsunami of Alzheimer’s hitting baby boomers

It’s something Jeffrey Klein, CEO and president of the two nonprofit adult day-care centers run by Nevada Senior Services, sees with increasing frequency.

Baby boomers caring for older loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease … and the children of baby boomers caring for their parents with the disease.

Every morning he sees boomers either dropping off loved ones at a day-care facility before driving on to work or being dropped off themselves — the day-care option for Alzheimer’s patients is popular with families who want to care for a relative but who need to work.

Alzheimer’s, the horrific condition robbing people of memory, is rapidly hitting the more than 70 million boomers born between 1946 and 1964. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in nine people age 65 and older today has the disease, the age range of greatest risk of Alzheimer’s.

By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s will nearly triple, from today’s 5.2 million to a projected 14 million, barring a medical breakthrough.

“What we’re seeing is a sandwich situation for boomers — they make up a large number of caregivers and are beginning to need care themselves,” Klein said as he stood inside the Las Vegas adult day-care center at 901 N. Jones Road. “Here there’s an almost even split between boomers being caregivers and receiving the help of caregivers.”

More than 50 percent of the 130 daily clients at the two nonprofit day-cares have cognitive problems, with others suffering largely with physical ailments. In addition to federal and private insurance programs that help defray the cost of day care, Klein and his staff are prolific grant writers, so few clients have to pay the $70 a day bill for services.

As I walked through the Las Vegas center — the other one is in Henderson at 1201 Nevada State Drive — something Klein said kept running through my mind

“I don’t think many baby boomers like to admit they’re now at an age that is at high risk for dementia.”

I’m one of them.

I may be at even higher risk for Alzheimer’s because my late mother had the disease.

In a very real sense, I saw someone I loved die twice. First the mind, then the body.

As I talked, the best I could, at the day-care center with boomers and others just a tad older suffering from dementia — a retired Marine and a retired physician among them — I couldn’t help wondering if I was looking at my future.

At times their frustration was evident as they tried to remember what they had done in their careers.

“I should remember that,” the former physician said, her brow furrowed as she shook her head.

If Klein, a boomer himself, had his way, there’d be few Alzheimer’s patients in costly residential facilities.

He believes nonprofit day-care facilities — coupled with other respite programs Nevada Senior Services provide — can help relieve the stress too many caregivers undergo 24-7.

He also says he’s sure those with the disease have a better quality of life when they still live around relatives and can be taken to a day-care facility where they are stimulated by socialization, exercise and classes in the arts.

Day-care clients also receive nutritious meals and staffers dispense prescribed drugs and diaper patients if necessary.

In October, Nevada Senior Services received the country’s highest award in caregiving, the Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award. The former first lady began the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving 29 years ago.

“We already need funding for more than just two of these facilities,” Klein said. “We’re in a tsunami of Alzheimer’s and it’s time we recognize the emergency.”

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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