Doctors don’t feel ready to deal with dementia, how the Alzheimer’s Association can help

Ozarks Tonight
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — More than five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease right now.

The Alzheimer’s Association is calling this a crisis.

Its latest report, Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, released on Wednesday shows 50 percent of primary care providers believe the profession is not prepared for the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Here are the numbers in Missouri:

There are 120,000 people 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s. In just five years, in 2025, it’s estimated there will be 130,000.

In this Ozarks Tonight, Jenifer Abreu talks to Kristen Hilty, a social worker and care consultant with the Alzheimer’s Association, about this report and the local impact.

Hilty says the report found 82 percent of primary care physicians say they feel they are on the front lines of dementia care.

“They are the ones that are seeing and addressing those issues first for our families,” Hilty said.

She says there are a couple of reasons the Association believes PCPs are not feeling prepared. The report shows 22 percent said they didn’t receive any dementia education in their residency. And those who did said they received very little training.

Should families be concerned?

“I think families should be concerned with it. It’s not a problem only for our grandparents and parents; we all age. So, we should all be concerned and looking for ways to support the education of our doctors,” she said.

She says the Alzheimer’s Association does just that – work to improve education for doctors and work with them to facilitate patient appointments.

“We don’t want families to feel alone. We want them to know that we are working on ways to work with physicians to be an adjunct to the services that they provide.”

Hilty says the Association focuses on creating relationships with physicians to give them the support they need, especially primary care providers.

As a care consultant, Hilty provides consultations via telehealth in conjunction with a primary care clinic. She says the Association is also looking at collaborative models for care and other programs to encourage education for doctors.

There’s also a shortage of specialists.

Hilty says there are 14 states that are called geriatric deserts, where they need to increase their numbers of geriatricians.

In Missouri, there are about 100 geriatricians, but we also know there are 120,000 people with Alzheimer’s.

“So, the math tells us that there aren’t enough to meet the demand,” she said.

A lot of the responsibility then falls on family members.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

  • Number of Missouri residents serving as unpaid family caregivers: 319,000
  • Total hours of unpaid care provided: 363,000
  • Total value of unpaid care: $4,755,000,000

“We know there are about three people taking care of each person who has Alzheimer’s Disease because it is a very complicated disease,” Hilty said. “It requires a lot of care and attention.”

All those unpaid hours translate into more than $4.7 billion in the state of Missouri.

“We are there to support those families to give them and resources they need… and helping them feel like they are not alone in the care they provide,” Hilty said.

For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association, click here.

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