Demand for Dementia Care Prompts Expansion

Posted at 12:57 PM, May 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-23 12:57:02-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 22, 2014) – Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but it’s not just the person living with the disease who is impacted.

The loss of brain function from dementia can severely impact a person’s day-to-day living.

As much as family wants to be the primary caretaker for a loved one that situation can become too much to handle.

“Some days, he’d be right on, he’d know ya right off, other days like it was mentioned that he had a wit about him that if you asked him a question it coulda been 90 seconds,” James Kilbourne said. “You’re about ready to give up.”

James Kilbourne’s father, Harold, was living with dementia. Harold’s wife, Dolores, took care of him for several years before the couple moved into a senior living community.

“It’s hard to know because they can’t tell you what’s wrong,” said Dolores Kilbourne. “And really, when you look at him, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong. I had a lot of people ask me why he was here and I said, ‘well, he needs the care of the nurses.”

For a person living with dementia, memory, thinking, language and behavior are all impacted – progressively getting worse over time.

“It progresses to the point where it’s not good for him, but [it’s] the understanding that the family gets as a group,” said James Kilbourne. “And it’s important because otherwise you don’t understand what he’s going through.”

Kilbourne witnessed firsthand the deterioration of his father’s mental state, watching the man he used to know, fade away.

“I think you lose some of that compassion because he’s there but he’s not there,” Kilbourne said.

The disease is becoming more common. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s one of more than 80 forms of dementia.

“We know worldwide, by 2030, there will be more than 100 million people that live with dementia,” said Brian Pangle, president and CEO of Clark.

Because of places like Clark there are resources for families and facilities that have the training to care for those living with the disorder.

On Thursday, Clark broke ground on a new 3,000 square foot facility on its Franklin campus in Grand Rapids that will provide a new level of care for dementia patients.

The care includes physical and mental stimulation: from swimming to music therapy, gardening to technology aimed at enhancing brain function.

“We’re changing the conversation and the attitude about how we care for our elders, quite frankly,” said Pangle.

“If my mom needs it, it’s gonna be here for her,” said Kilbourne.