POSTED: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 6:29pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 7:04pm
EL PASO - The number of elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimers makes the situation urgent.
Last January, lawmakers signed the National Alzheimers Project Act (NAPA) to research the disease, slow its progress, or even prevent it.
The director of the Alzheimer's Association here in El Paso tells News Channel 9 that an unprecedented number of seniors are diagnosed with Alzheimers and with that, a record number of family members become care takers .
Every day over 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, the age when the risk of Alzheimers becomes high.
"We are entering a crisis with it because everyone who has Alzheimers will require full time care at some point in the disease progression,"said Denese Watkins, Director of the El Paso Alzheimer's Association. She says families face a crisis when they can't provide their loved one with proper care and the only option is a nursing home.
More than half of Alzheimers patients in nursing homes have Medicare or Medicaid and taxpayers are footing the bill. Watkins says more research on Alzheimers can help patients stay at home longer and save taxpayer dollars.
"If we don't pay for it now, we'll pay for it later," Watkins said.
The disease hits close to home for Watkins. Her mother passed away from Alzheimers in 2001 and her mother-in-law died earlier this month.
"For the last three years she did not know us, she didn't know who we were," she said.
Guy Mitchell's 86 year-old mother was diagnosed six years ago. When her husband died she was suddenly alone.
"You pretty much have to put your life on hold in the situation. Luckily I retired so i have time to be here.Well it's probably about the worst disease someone can have. Imagine not knowing if you've eaten or eaten twice, not reading the paper or reading it 2 or 3 times. Going over and over the same thing she just did..she might take 2 or 3 showers," Mitchell said.
He says they've been very active in the Alzheimers support group. He just wants his mom to be more comfortable as her health declines.
"It's hard to watch her go through it," Mitchell said.
For more information about the disease, visit The Alzheimer's Association .