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Mike and Constance Wentworth

Constance and Mike Wentworth

Data available from the Alzheimer’s Association reveals the following statistics about the disease for the state of Iowa and the nation:

• Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s

• An estimated 65,000 Iowans have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia

• It is the fifth leading cause of death in Iowa, sixth in the United States due to an aging population

• Alzheimers accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases

• Five million Americans live with Alzheimers, 16 million are projected by 2050

• High risk groups: Hispanics 1.5 times greater, African Americans 2 times greater

• Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimers are women

• After age 65, risk of Alzheimers doubles every five years

• At least 32% of Americans age 80 and older have Alzheimers

• An estimated 15 million unpaid caregivers provide 18.2 billion hours of service in the United States

Sobering information to say the least. The health and wellbeing of Alzheimers patient caregivers is just as vital as the individuals they take care of.

If caregivers lose focus on their own mental and physical health, both the patient and the caregiver lose. Caregiver non-fatal sicknesses such as “depression and auto immune diseases” rank high for placing the caregiver at risk. Caregivers are prone to postponing or canceling their own medical appointments due to the demands of their service.

The web site Aging Care reports that 30% of caregivers die before the individuals they are caring for. It has been suggested that figure is even higher -- to as much as 66% -- when the caregiver is living with the patient alone at home.

The unpredictability of the constant demands and duties to the caregiver can be overwhelming. This is why the welfare of the caregiver is vitally important for their own physical and mental health.

The good news is, in the Mason City area, caregivers are not in this alone! Besides family members and friends, there are other local, effective options for the caregiver to find relief or “respite” care to secure vital personal time for vacations, errands, visit friends or just plain “me alone” time.

• Local Care Facilities can be temporary sources for vacations with availability & fees varying

• Salvation Army Day Care, 641-421-2577, (check for fees, hours & availability)

• Respite Companions Group, 641-812-2613, respitecompanions@gmail.com, on Facebook, free, in home, short term 1-4 hours, non-medical care (contact for any geographical restrictions)

Several of our Support Group members have utilized the above-referenced resources and have found them to be of great value. They are able to go on vacation or plan other short term events knowing their loved one is being cared for in a loving and caring environment. If your loved one is a military veteran, you may find the cost of the stay in a care facility is free or greatly reduced. It may even be possible for your family pet to accompany your loved one to the care facility. Think of how comforting that would be to your loved one!

If you are or soon will be thrust into a caregiver role, please place your own mental and physical health as a top priority. Besides the options listed above, attend a local Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group to listen to and speak with friendly, compassionate caregivers who are dealing with this heartbreaking disease first hand. Please feel free to bring a family member or a friend! You may also contact the Iowa Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 at 800-272-3900 or https://www.alz.org/iowa for additional information and assistance.

We hold our Caregiver Support Group Meetings on the third Wednesday of every month from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Kentucky Ridge Assisted Living Community, 2060 S. Kentucky Ave. in Mason City. Please visit and LIKE our Facebook page at Alzheimer's Caregivers Support Group - Mason City, Iowa and email us at alzsupgroupmc@outlook.com with any questions or concerns.

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Michael and Constance Wentworth, of Mason City, are Alzheimer’s support group facilitators. Their periodic columns will highlight specific real-life questions or concerns addressed at one of their support group meetings. For more information, see their page on Facebook, Alzheimer's Caregivers Support Group Mason City. You can also email them at alzsupgroupmc@outlook.com or call 641-201-1797 and leave a message.

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