August 21, 2018 is National Senior Citizens Day and this is the time to really take a stand in appreciation for our senior citizens. We must prepare for the “Silver Tsunami.”
Clinical Trial to Test Safety of an Alzheimer’s Vaccine for Humans
A clinical trial in partnership with researchers from San Diego University on people with Down syndrome to test the safety of a vaccine to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is taking place at Massachusetts General Hospital. The clinical trial is being led by Dr.Brian Skotko, a geneticist, whose 38-year-old sister was born with Down syndrome.
People with Down Syndrome Have a very High Risk for Early onset Alzheimer’s Disease
For some reason people with Down syndrome are very prone to early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, 40% of people with Down syndrome show symptoms resembling Alzheimer’s disease by age 40 and 50% show symptoms by the age of 50. Genes are also believed to be the main cause of early onset Alzheimer’s in people in the general population, who also get early onset Alzheimer’s in their 40s and 50s. Most people contract Alzheimer’s around age 65 or later.
The Vaccine Could be Ready for Use in 10-15 Years
The theory behind the research is that if a vaccine will prevent Alzheimer’s in people with Down syndrome, then it should also work to prevent Alzheimer’s in the general population. The trial is set up so that some of the participants will receive the vaccine and some will only receive a placebo. The vaccine is also being tested in a clinical trial in Germany on people without Down syndrome. If all goes well a vaccine could be ready for use in 10-15 years.
The “Silver Tsunami” is on its Way
An Alzheimer’s vaccine will probably not come around in time to help those who are coming with the “Silver Tsunami.” According to Sharona Hoffman, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University who published a paper in the Elder Journal, May 2018, the population of seniors over the age of 65 is increasing at a very rapid pace, and with the entry of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), is expected to reach over 72 million (20% of the US population) by the year 2030. It will probably be too late to vaccinate these people, so we can only hope that researchers will also come up with some other way of preventing or stopping Alzheimer’s disease.
Preclinical Silent Phase of Alzheimer’s is when Brain Damage Takes Place
Another problem is that Alzheimer’s has a preclinical phase without any symptoms for about 10 years. During this preclinical phase extensive brain damage takes place, which finally shows up in symptoms, but only after the damage has already been done. So many of these baby boomers may already be in this silent preclinical phase of Alzheimer’s disease. A vaccine, if successful, will probably only be a blessing for the children or grandchildren of the baby boomers.
Sharona Hoffman’s Paper is a Wake-up Call
Sharona Hoffman’s paper is a wake-up call to policy makers to act now to make certain that this large mass population of seniors will be properly cared for. She believes that if the right steps are not taken now, there will be tremendous human suffering for many of those who will be coming in with the “Silver Tsunami.”
Her theme is that aging affects everyone and everyone has aging loved ones.
Recommendations by Sharona Hoffman
Pressure must be put on the members of the government by advocacy organizations and the media to give top priority to these issues:
Steps must be taken to prevent the possible collapse of Social Security and Medicare and to confront the sky rocketing prices of prescription drugs.
Today only 5% of those seniors eligible for extra perks provided by law from the Older Americans Act of 1965 (OAA) actually receive them. So how will this law affect the incoming new masses of the silver-haired population?
The need for long-term care and caregivers will increase, while at the same time there will be a shortage of caregivers, since most of them range from age 45-64. It is projected that by 2050, 27 million seniors will need some kind of long-term care. The government should subsidize insurance for long-term skilled nursing care.
Professional caregivers must get better working conditions to attract more people to this profession.
Since so many seniors will no longer be able to drive, transportation must be made available for them to go to medical appointments, to go out to socialize, to shop, etc.
Today there is a shortage of geriatric physicians because they receive lower salaries than other doctors. Incentives should be made to encourage medical students to want to become geriatric specialists.
Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey
If you or your loved one are in need or short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care because of Alzheimer’s disease, look for a facility that has a specialized memory impaired care unit like the Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway Township, New Jersey. See our blog post from May 29, 2018.
A way of preventing and/or curing Alzheimer’s is desperately needed and it should be hoped that this vaccine will pass the safety tests and will eventually be available for use. Also, there is a “Silver Tsunami” on the way and unless steps are taken now there could be terrible human suffering for our seniors.