Facts and Figures
Data from both the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Foundation of America suggest that as many as 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. This includes approximately 200,000 individuals under the age of 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer's. Today, an American develops Alzheimer's every 68 seconds. The Alzheimer's Association predicts that by 2050, an American will develop the disease every 33 seconds. The risk of Alzheimer's disease increases with age and it is well known that our population is aging. The Census Bureau reports that there are currently 39 million Americans age 65 and older, up from 25.5 just 30 years ago.
Couple that data with the fact that, according to the Alzheimer's Association, 15.4 million caregivers provided more than 17.5 billion hours of upaid care valued at $216 billion dollars; that nearly 15% of caregivers for people with Alzheimer's or another dementia are long distance caregivers; and that in 2013, Alzheimer's cost the nation $203 billion dollars (a figure that is expected to increase to $1.2 trillion by 2050) and it is abundantly clear that there are opportunities for intervention and support initiatives at all levels.
Research shows that individuals with Alzheimer's disease need to be engaged in activities they enjoy.
However, it is not easy for them to plan their days or move from task to task. They may have trouble deciding what to do or even getting started with a particular activity. Caregivers can help by establishing a schedule of activities the person with Alzheimer's enjoys. Activities should be selected that the individual can complete successfully and that can be fun for everyone. If the individual with Alzheimer's finds it more enjoyable to observe the activity rather than participate, that's fine.
Current brain research shows that some forms of mental exercise, like jigsaw puzzles, can slow the progression of the disease. Jigsaw puzzles are especially helpful as they stimulate multiple areas of the brain at once. Some provide relaxation, others offer mental and social stimulation and still others prompt creativity.
Jigsaw puzzles pose a problem to be solved. The problem-solving process is a cognitive exercise - puzzles have therapeutic value. It is shown repeatedly that this type of alternative therapy improves memory and brain function in people with dementia. The puzzles foster cooperation with everyone working toward a common goal. This collaboration can also inspire conversation and socialization both of which are critically important for those with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.