After earning a master"s degree, Sarah launched her dream career. Within a couple of years, her life looked exactly as she"d always envisioned. She was leading a team at work. She"d purchased a home she really enjoyed, with a sloping backyard and cascading flower beds. She went on hikes with her photography group almost every weekend, looking for off-the-beaten-path shots. She became a gourmet cook. She fell in love. Life was as good as it could possibly get.
But unexpectedly, Sarah was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer"s disease. She was 48. Her partner loved her, but couldn"t see marrying her anymore. She lost her job. Her parents became her primary caregivers, all of them feeling frustrated, as if she was a teenager again.
Sarah"s parents asked the questions that long term care professionals are also asking with the younger populations residing in their communities:
How do you manage an independent, active, highly-educated 48 year-old woman with rapidly deteriorating safety awareness and judgment in otherwise peak physical condition?
How do you persuade her not to drive?
How do you convince her that she can"t use the stove anymore because of that incident with forgetting the copper pan and literally liquefying it?
How do you explain that nature hikes require a buddy system?
How do you make sure she"s taking her birth control?
What about when she forgets how to use a tampon? What about the fact that she wears contacts?
How should we respond when she calls us screaming, accusing us of hacking her computer because she can"t remember how to work it anymore?
How do you convince her she needs help?
These are important questions, and Sarah"s life illustrates many of the issues we don"t often think of when caring for older adults living with dementia. And yet, this younger population is growing, and two-thirds of them have a non-Alzheimer"s disease cause of dementia. We as professionals need to be prepared for the growing demand for services, clear about the difference in needs caused by both the type of dementia and the age group. My question is, are we truly ready to provide the care Gen X needs?