New Report Says Alzheimer’s Disease Is Now Major Public Health Issue

Published in the Woonsocket Call on March 25, 2018

For the second consecutive year, total payments to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will surpass $277 billion, which includes an increase of nearly $20 billion from last year, according to data reported in the Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report recently released last Tuesday.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the annual report, first released in 2007, is a compilation of state and national specific statistics and information detailing the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias on individuals, families, state and federal government and the nation’s health care system.

“This year’s report illuminates the growing cost and impact of Alzheimer’s on the nation’s health care system, and also points to the growing financial, physical and emotional toll on families facing this disease,” said Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, in a statement. “Soaring prevalence, rising mortality rates and lack of an effective treatment all lead to enormous costs to society. Alzheimer’s is a burden that’s only going to get worse. We must continue to attack Alzheimer’s through a multidimensional approach that advances research while also improving support for people with the disease and their caregivers,” he said.

Adds Fargo, “Discoveries in science mean fewer people are dying at an early age from heart disease, cancer and other diseases,” said Fargo. “Similar scientific breakthroughs are needed for Alzheimer’s disease, and will only be achieved by making it a national health care priority and increasing funding for research that can one day lead to early detection, better treatments and ultimately a cure.”

2018 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures

New findings from the 88-page report on March 20, 2017 reveal the growing burden on 16.3 million caregivers providing 18.4 billion hours of care valued at over $ 232 billion to 5.7 million people with the devastating mental disorder. By 2050, the report projects that the number of persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will rise to nearly 14 million, with the total cost of care skyrocketing to more than $1.1 trillion.

Between 2000 and 2015 deaths from health disease nationwide decreased by 11 percent but deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 123 percent, says the new data in the report, noting that one out of three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It even kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. In Rhode Island in 2015, the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease was 453, making the devastating brain disorder the 5th leading cause of death in the state.

In 2017, 53,000 Rhode Island caregivers provided an estimated 61 million hours of unpaid physical and emotional care and financial support – a contribution to the nation valued at $768 million dollars. The difficulties associated with providing this level of care are estimated to have resulted in $45 million in additional healthcare costs for Alzheimer’s and other dementia caregivers in 2017.

State Updates Battle Plan Against Alzheimer’s Disease

“The Alzheimer’s Association’s most recent report about Alzheimer’s Disease in Rhode Island illustrates the need to take swift action in updating our State Plan to ensure Rhode Island is prepared to provide the necessary resources to families, caregivers and patients who are struggling with the disease,” says Lt. Governor McKee,

McKee adds that the updated State Plan will be a blueprint for how Rhode Island will continue to address the growing Alzheimer’s crisis. “It will create the infrastructure necessary to build programs and services for the growing number of Rhode Islanders with the disease. The updated Plan will also outline steps the state must take to improve services for people with Alzheimer’s and their families. After the update is complete, my Alzheimer’s Executive Board will seek legislative and regulatory changes to carry out the recommendations of the Plan and ensure that it is more than just a document,” he says.

“One of the many types of caregivers benefiting from AARP’s caregiving advocacy in Rhode Island are family members who care for those with Alzheimer’s,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “They are among the army of 10 million wives, husbands, sons and daughters nationwide. The majority are women and according to researchers, especially when it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s care. Approximately 40 percent of those caregivers say they have no other options or choices, and a third say they provide care 24/7.

“The latest report indicates what we already know,” Connell added. “This will continue to be rising challenge in Rhode Island as our population ages. The disease will place more stress on our Medicaid-funded nursing home capacity, which should make this a concern for taxpayers. There is a strong case for increasing research funding so that someday we may reverse the tide.

“Our Web site, http://www.aarp.org, provides abundant resources for these dedicated caregivers. AARP in states across the nation, including Rhode Island, have worked to pass legislation that provides paid respite for caregivers who have jobs as well as caregiving obligations. We have supported the Alzheimer’s Association here in Rhode Island for many years and, last year, a small team of AARP volunteers participated in the Alzheimer’s Walk. Joined by others, they are gearing up for this year’s walk.”

Increased Research Funding Needed Now

Donna McGowan, Alzheimer’s Association, RI Chapter Executive Director, says that the 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report should send a very clear message that Alzheimer’s disease is an issue that policy makers cannot ignore. “This is an urgent public health crisis that must be addressed. Early detection and diagnosis of the disease leads to better planning, avoiding preventable hospitalizations, and over all a better quality of life for the patient and the caregiver,” says McGowan.

McGowan warns that the health care system is not ready to handle the increased cost and number of individuals expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease in the coming years. “With a vigorous National Plan in place to address the Alzheimer’s crisis, and annual budget guidance for Congress, it is essential that the federal government continue its commitment to the fight against Alzheimer’s by increasing funding for Alzheimer’s research,” adds McGowan.

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline sees the need for increased funding for direct services for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. He voted for H.R.1625, the omnibus spending bill that increases funding for the National Institute of Health’s Alzheimer’s research by $414 million. And two years ago, Cicilline worked to pass H.R.1559, “The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act,” which President Obama signed into law to expand Medicare coverage for Alzheimer’s treatment.

If Cicilline succeeds to get the Republican-controlled Congress to have a vote on H.Res.160, his bill to reestablish the House Select Committee on Aging, it will allow House lawmakers to hear expert testimony and make new policy recommendations to improve the delivery of care to those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and to assist caregivers, too.

For details, go to http://www.alz.org/facts.

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Women Capable of Changing Corporate Culture with Effective Communication

Published in Woonsocket Call on March 11, 2018

Effective communication is a major factor for women executives to be successful on the job and for having healthy personal relationships, says Author Donna Mac, a well-known corporate communications trainer and keynote speaker. Ms. Mac is based in south eastern Massachusetts, with 30 years of experience in the communications industry.

The corporate communications expert notes that a recent article in Psychology Today says that whether a partner’s communication “lifts you up or brings you down” is the single largest predictor of divorce. “That one trait can also translate into work too, observes Mac. “Often, a company’s greatest talent leaves a job because of miscommunication or a lack of communication and limited trust,” she says.

“Our society is changing at an incredible pace, so we often fail to have those vital conversations or to take time to ensure that understanding has taken place. Details fall through the cracks and we spend more time picking up the pieces than if we had taken a few moments to communicate effectively in the first place,” says Mac.

Western Women Will Save The World

In 2012, Mac said, the Dali Lama was quoted as saying, “western women will save the world”. “I agree and disagree”, says Mac. “I believe His Holiness saw the importance of bringing softer, more nurturing communication skills into the workplace. It’s clear he was talking about the skills that prove to people that you’ve taken the time to think and care about them,” she says.

Mac says, “Empathetic communication skills are more important now than ever. But the workplace also needs employees who have thick skin; professionals who are able to articulate the rules, regulations and take a firm stand on issues. Those skills,” Mac says, “are the kind that will get you noticed by upper management. They come from someone not afraid to do and say the right thing at the right time, even if discomforting,” she says.

“I see it all the time. Like when a boss doesn’t provide her employees constructive feedback for fear of how that worker will feel,” says Mac, noting that when this happens it can be a great disservice to the employee and the organization because you’ve lost an opportunity for everyone to maximize the potential of the company and its people.

Speaking & Communicating Mindfully

Even with three decades of communication experience under her belt, Mac doesn’t lose sight of the fact that she’s still has more to learn. “I learn new modalities all the time. These days, I’m helping people become more mindful of how they communicate and what they can and cannot control. I’ve sharpened these skills through some recent mindfulness training. That means shutting down our noisy, overstimulated brains by sitting in silence, noticing our biases and doing breathing exercises”.

“It’s amazing”, Mac says, how communicating mindfully helps with the fear of speaking. We fear speaking at the podium and we also fear having challenging conversations. Being more mindful helps you feel more confident as you acquire the tools necessary to communicate.”

“We’ve been taught not to focus on our weaknesses,” Mac says, “but if you want to communicate more effectively, it’s vital that you know what they are. This way, if you are more reserved, you are not overpowered by colleagues or partners who are more outgoing. If your communication skills are more boisterous, you can learn the virtues of slowing down, judging less and listening better.”

“I help people understand people, so they’re able to tune in and relate better. Email and texting is not going away but I think everyone knows that our society can be healthier with more human-to-human interaction and less time on our cell phones! We will also have a more balanced society when communicators are able to be kind and to speak with certainty.”

Mac suggests that if you want to become a more effective communicator, don’t focus on changing others. “When you begin to find your voice after being more introverted, you can actually become more influential pretty quickly. If you’ve been a very communicative person and begin to ask more questions and listen, those around you will notice.”

“It takes time, energy and effort to become a more effective communicator but the benefits at work and at home are well worth it. Plus, the time for all people to acquire the confidence and ability to speak is long overdue. So, ask yourself,” Mac suggests, “are you ready and able to take on the challenge?”

With the #MeToo movement and growing number of incidents of sexual harassment being reported daily, says she spends more time looking forward than in the past. “Just about every woman has a story of being or feeling intimidated. And it’s a different world now. Thanks to the many women who have come forward, it’s a perfect time to learn how to shut down someone who is seeking to take advantage.”

Mac says, “I can’t help with the current laws of the land or regulations in various businesses. But everyone in the workplace, women and men, need to the courage and ability to tell an abuser to stop…to say statements like, “I find that comment way out of line and I am asking you to stop now” or “Help me understand what you mean by that. I’m sure you realize that I don’t stand for any type of intimidation”.

“Give them eye contact and stand in your powerful silence. It’s quite effective.”

This month we celebrate Women’s History Month, to showcase the contribution women have made throughout society. Yes, history can be made in corporate American when women stop apologizing for speaking directly. You can do this while still being kind and respectful. It’s like blending traditionally male and female communication traits when you are able to speak using both your brain and your intuition.

Donna Mac is author of Guide to a RICHER LIFE–Know Your Worth, Find Your Voice & Speak Your Mind, and The Six Pillars of Effective Communication. She is also a keynote speaker and private coach. For more details, go to http://www.dmacvoice.com.