Sixty-Six Seconds

Sixty-Six Seconds by Susan Johnson


A lot can happen in a minute. For example: 250 babies are born every minute; lightning strikes the Earth 6,000 times every minute; there are 5 earthquakes every minute and Americans eat 21 thousand slices of pizza every single minute. (Yep, you read that right!) That’s what the statistics say, anyway.

The statistics also say that, if you add just six seconds to that minute, someone in the United States will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Every time. Every sixty-six seconds.

But let’s stop the clock for a minute and take a quick look at how these sixty-six seconds are adding up. How are they affecting our lives and the lives of our friends, neighbors and family members? According to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) , more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease at this very moment, making it the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, here in St. Johns County, we are keeping a steady pace with the national count; over 4,000 residents are dealing with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, brain trauma or memory loss. That means you probably know someone who is either personally challenged by the medical issues of dementia, or providing care for a loved one who is.

Got another minute? Let’s look more closely at two words in that last sentence: providing care. In 2015, family caregivers provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care at an estimated economic value of $221.3 billion. And that’s not all. They also spent, on average, more than $5,000 every year on the cost of that care. For some, this means doing without “luxuries” like vacations and new cars; for others, it means cutting back on essentials like food, medications and recreation. In addition, many caregivers opt to work at home during the hours when their loved one is less active just to make ends meet. The facts are that Alzheimer’s disease is costing our nation approximately $236 billion annually and those costs are increasing…well…every minute.

Council on Aging Executive Director Becky Yanni has made addressing the issues of memory loss, dementia and caregiver support a priority in our community. According to Yanni, “The Council on Aging is dedicated to promoting the health, dignity and social engagement of all older residents in our community, including those challenged by memory disorders. Our county statistics are sobering. At COA, we recognize the importance of nurturing the personal value and unique gifts of each individual – regardless of barriers or diagnoses. It is our mission to provide opportunities for everyone to live their best possible lives. Professional, compassionate adult day care is a key component to quality of life, and COA has taken the lead in addressing this community issue by providing two of the only licensed, therapeutic adult day care centers in St. Johns County: the COA Sunshine Center, 180 Marine St., and the COA Ponte Vedra Adult Day Care Center, 1048 A1A north in Ponte Vedra Beach.”

But why is adult day care so important when we talk about dementia care? Well, we’re not eating all that pizza alone! The truth is, we all need the company of others to whom we can relate and with whom we feel comfortable. Socialization is crucial to quality of life at any age, no matter our particular issues. It is important that each of us feel connected to our environment. And, as Becky Yanni pointed out, every one of us is of value, each of us has gifts to give, and all of us have a desire to feel useful. A professional, licensed, adult day care center provides all that and more. There are specially designed activities and exercises that focus on stimulation while encouraging a sense of accomplishment; there are field trips and parties and a rhythm and routine that give the participants a feeling of security and comfort.

Another big advantage of adult day care is that it provides the caregiver with time free from the stress that accompanies the job of caring for a loved one. Caregivers can continue to work without worrying about how Mom or Dad are doing at home; they can meet a friend for lunch (more pizza, anyone?); schedule their medical appointments; take a class or simply relax and listen to music or read a book. The hard truth is that caregivers are great at caring for others but not always so great at caring for themselves! So, by allowing for regular respite time knowing their loved one is in a safe and secure setting, caregivers can do whatever they need to do to rejuvenate and re-energize.

The COA welcomes all those who are interested in learning more about memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to call us at (904) 209-3700 any Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm. Ask questions, access resources or schedule a visit to tour either one of our adult day care centers.

Sixty-six seconds. Just enough time to make a phone call. Because a lot can happen in a minute!