Dementia, which has many causes (75% of dementia’s are caused by Alzheimer’s Disease), has become a major national concern. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that today there are five million with the disease, and that by 2050 this number will grow to 16 million people.
There are primarily two reasons for this trend. First, we are living longer. Thanks to advances in medical technology, what once were killer diseases have been brought under control. Thus, more of us live into the period of life when dementia can set in. Basically, this period is 60 years and older.
The second reason is demographic. The post-war Baby Boomers have become, or are on their way to becoming “elders.”
Statistics suggest that dementia is or will become a greater problem in Hernando and Citrus Counties than within Florida as a whole. This is because Citrus and Hernando have older populations.
Throughout the State of Florida, 17% of the population are over the age of 65. In Hernando County, 31% are over 65! This means that on a per-capita basis, Hernando has almost twice the number of people over 65 than the State of Florida.
Citrus is even more extreme. Fully 35% of its citizens are over the age of 65, which is more than twice the State average! Not only are these two counties significantly older than the State as a whole; they also have older populations than the other counties along the so-called Nature Coast.
What do we need to do in response to this situation? It means that the County Commissions, the Sheriff Departments, other first responder agencies and health care services need to be ramped up in Hernando and Citrus to meet the current and growing demand.
There are already some very good things happening.
In Citrus, for example, the Sheriff’s department has initiated a database for persons with special needs so that first responders will be able to deliver more appropriate specific responses to 911 calls that involve people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Hernando County has the good fortune of being the home of the Alzheimer’s Family Organization, which provides services and support to caregivers in eight west-central Florida counties.
My own company, Coping with Dementia LLC, can provide free educational workshops. The best tool to confront problems is knowledge and understanding of this insidious disease. We must all be dedicated to making both Hernando and Citrus Counties more dementia safe and dementia friendly.