LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — More Kentuckians are living with Alzheimer’s disease than ever before, but there is also a significant shortage of healthcare workers. The Alzheimer’s Association released new data on Wednesday showing this and several other concerning trends.
There are 75,000 Kentuckians with Alzheimer’s, but in the next few years, leaders with the Alzheimer’s Association estimate that number to increase by almost 15%. However, qualified doctors are limited. There are currently only 39 Geriatricians in the state. These are doctors who specialize in the unique care required for older adults. In order for every patient to get the care they deserve, there need to be 430.8% more doctors specializing in geriatrics.
At-home and personal care aides also struggle to meet demands as they try to cope with depression, stress, and anxiety due to the increased workload.
Leaders say, not only do more people need to be professionally trained to support those battling the disease, but it all starts with the patient.
“It’s important to get a clear and concise diagnosis early. We encourage people to talk to their doctors about getting enrolled in a clinical trial and being able to participate in some of those new treatments,” said Shannon White, executive director for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Several clinical trials are happening at UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging in Lexington. At least three are testing new drugs.
The shortage of healthcare workers is also leaving the heavy lifting to the families, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
There are about 157,000 Kentuckians taking care of a loved one with the disease. It’s often a husband or a wife helping at all hours of the day, totaling about $4.8 billion of unpaid care. Many have to leave their job early, work part-time, or quit so that they can provide the best care possible. However, the constant work takes a toll on their bodies, and many feel burned out.
“We need more help to give families a break, to have a respite, to go away for the weekend or go shopping with friends,” said white. “They need to take better care of themselves as they’re taking care of their loved one.”
For more information visit the website for Kentucky’s Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.