Commentary: DECARD a source of assistance for Alzheimer’s issues

Delaware, like much of the country, is in the the midst of unprecedented growth in its older population. As people age, they become more susceptible to chronic disease, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

In Delaware, about 17,000 Delawareans aged 65 and older — about 11 percent of the state’s senior population — are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible and progressive brain disorder that affects a person’s memory, thinking skills and behavior. There currently is no cure for Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

As Delaware’s older population increases, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will grow as well. Between 2015 and 2025, the number of persons aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease in the state is expected to grow by 35 percent, to 23,000 people. These numbers touch us all because they represent family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, clients and customers.

As the disease progresses, so do the demands on caregivers. In turn, caregivers need greater support as well.

In response to this growing need for resources and supports for families across our state, the Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Disabilities (DSAAPD), a division of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association, Delaware State University and the University of Delaware to develop the Delaware Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementia (DECARD).

DECARD — www.decard.org — is a virtual hub of information and resources for those living with or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), their caregivers and medical professionals. The many items on the site include information on resources, services available, and national research. The DECARD site, designed to be user-friendly with information updated regularly, is a place for Delawareans to turn to as a trusted resource.

The work of DECARD is successful because of the partnerships established with nonprofit, governmental agencies, private organizations and hundreds of individuals who have dedicated their time and energy to make Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias a public health issue.

DECARD is part of a statewide effort to ensure those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are understood and supported. Please go to www.decard.org for more information.

Dava Newnam is director of the Delaware Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities within the Department of Health and Social Services.

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