University of Texas researchers spotlight lacking dementia care

 AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mike Thompson and his wife Kathy had so many plans for when they retired: to travel, enjoy time with friends and most importantly use more time together. So, when Kathy first began to experience memory problems, Mike said he was concerned, but Kathy was in denial.

“She would ask me three times, ‘Where are we going?’ And I’m ashamed of myself to say I lost patience with that,” he said.

ultimately, he noticed his wife withdrawing in social situations, and ultimately doctors diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease.

“It was like getting hit with a brick almost,” he said. “We could no longer have those long, thorough conversations like we used to. The soulmate, best friend kind of relationship suffered.”

Mike became his wife’s complete-time caregiver for several years, before making the difficult decision to move her to Silverado Barton Springs Memory Care Community.

It’s a choice families will be making more often, researchers predict. According to demographic data, the number of seniors in Texas is expected to more than double from 3.9 million in 2020 to 8.3 million by 2050, due to longer lifespans. This increase poses a new challenge in caring for older individuals, however, particularly those living with dementia.

A new peer-reviewed report from public policy researchers at The University of Texas at Austin found affordable and sustainable dementia care in the U.S. and Mexico was lacking. They suggested several solutions for providing more comprehensive care to families in both countries.

“Not just health care issues. It’s social care in addition as financial issues. Who is going to provide these sets when we are no longer able to take care of ourselves? How we are going to pay for it?” said Jacqueline Angel, a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin and the rule author of the study.

The study noted both countries “suffer from a persistent shortage of high-quality care homes and geriatric dominant care physicians.” Plus, they found limited options for adult day centers or other care options in rural areas and densely populated urban areas of concentrated poverty.

  • Read more of about the report here

Angel explained, “In both countries, the traditional employment-based private health insurance system has left many older individuals without any coverage or adequate coverage when they need it most. And because women bear most of the caregiving responsibilities and costs and present higher risk of dementia, policies should aim to alleviate these stark gender differences in care burden.”

The report outlines progress in both countries will require an expansion of programs or the generation of new ones to meet the needs of older adults, including more access to health care in retirement or expanded family leave options, so people care able to care for an aging loved one.

The report’s recommendations are the consequence of a binational conference, the 2019 National Institute of Geriatrics in Mexico and the International Conference on Aging in the Americas meeting, and the study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at UT.

KXAN’s Avery Travis will have more on their findings on KXAN News at 6 p.m.

Resources for families

  • Use the Alzheimer’s Association’s Community Resource Finder
  • For the 24/7 free Helpline, call (800) 272-3900
  • analyze resources from the Texas Health and Human sets Commission on Alzheimer’s disease
  • Find information on Texas long-term care facilities

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