What can the novel coronavirus pandemic teach us about dementia? How are rural communities grappling with the public health toll of cognitive decline? How can Gen Z and their grandparents help one another? In case you missed them, our editors and contributors round up their most recommended reads from the month of March in Being Patient Reads of the Month.
New York Times: How Two Lonely Generations Are Helping Each Other Heal, March 18
A byproduct of the pandemic is loneliness, and according to researchers at Harvard University, the two most affected groups are two generations otherwise quite distant from one another: young adults and the elderly . Writer Richard Schiffman establishes this disconnect through survey findings, expert opinions and anecdotes, all pointing back to the notion that the bond between young and the old “is critical for the well-being of both.” Though the pairing of these groups may initially seem a mismatch, if they were able to find ways to come together, he writes, they would not only feel less isolated, but enlightened by one another’s outlook.
The elderly, for instance, can draw from the breadth of their life’s experiences and teach the younger generation how to thrive during hard times. The younger cohort could teach the elderly about our ever-changing world, the ins and outs of technology, as well as informing them about new conversations surrounding race, justice and gender. The piece also called attention to ways companies are making an effort to fortify this weakened bond in hopes of alleviating their experiences of solitude.
Although direct contact between the young and old has been stifled because of COVID, this piece highlighted a few significant exceptions, including a college freshman who has made an effort to stay in contact with her grandfather via Zoom during the pandemic. She says their conversations has made her feel more at ease about aging, which she now views as a beautiful, natural progression of life. A 14-year-old Los Angeles native uses his newfound downtime to call his grandmother more often. “Her fears during the war are similar to my own fears of going outside during the pandemic,” he said. “But it’s definitely not as bad as having to work two jobs and never having enough money. It really puts what I’m going through into perspective.” Sometimes all we need during tough times like these, is exactly that. –Genevieve Glass
Pensacola News Journal: Pensacola Woman Stole Thousands From Woman With Alzheimer’s, Marh 23
For his local paper, Colin Warren-Hicks reports on the developing story of a 59-year-old woman in Pensacola who emptied the savings account of a 90-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s and was apprehended following an investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families and local police. Last week, Jacqueline Hadden was arrested and charged with exploitation of the elderly after Hadden had been allegedly convincing the older woman to write Hadden checks. “This has caused (the older woman) to overdraw from her bank account emptying the savings she did have,” the arrest report stated.
It seems like the stuff of movies — and in fact, it is: A similar course of events unfolds in Netflix’s new “pitch-black comedy” I Care A Lot, starring Rosamund Pike as a corrupt caregiver-con-artist conning Dianne Wiest as a seemingly (but ultimately not so) helpless woman at the brink of the onset of dementia. Such stories, it turns out, are much more common that most people realize. As Being Patient Nicholas Chan writes in his recent article “Why Money Management Gets Harder With Age — And What We Can Do About It,” financial exploitation of older adults is “America’s hidden epidemic”: Only one in 44 cases are ever reported. Luckily, he explains, there are clear red flags and even companies launching products that can help protect the vulnerable against financial abuse and fraud — You just have to know what warning signs to look for. –Alexandra Marvar
The Columbus Dispatch: Rural Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers Face Unique Hurdles with Stigma, Access, March 8
Mary Jo Moorhead is one of many caregivers who live in isolated communities where resources are very limited. In Appalachia, residents often brush aside signs of cognitive impairment as typical aging, when often it deserves a closer look. For The Columbus Dispatch, Emma Scott Moran sheds light on the extent to which rural communities lack the resources and public awareness infrastructure that could help lighten the burdens of dementia on caregivers those diagnosed. She also explores the role of organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association who are filling that gap, providing educational programs, support groups, and connecting primary doctors to dementia care experts. –Queenie Lacaben
STAT: The Long, Exhausting Reach of Dementia Care, March 19
Like COVID-19, dementia is widespread, and while it isn’t infectious, it does have resounding effects, affecting not only with a diagnosis, but the community around them. For STAT, University of Pennsylvania neurologist and Alzheimer’s researcher Dr. Jason Karlawish reflects on the lessons of the pandemic, highlighting the importance of leveraging technology for dementia care, embracing caregivers in clinical care and reforming health care financing. When the pandemic ends, he says, the onus of taking its lesson to heart and stemming the rising toll of dementia is on us.