Across Colorado, more than 65,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and in Southwest Colorado, patients face a variety of problems including a lack of specialists and the steep costs of long-term care.
For local advocate Cindy Lichliter, the problem is pressing because as the baby boomer generation ages, more people are likely to be diagnosed each year.
Lichliter spent 12 years caring for her mother after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and now organizes the annual Guardian Angel’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Cortez to help raise awareness and work towards a cure.
The disease impacts three in 10 adults over 65 and six in 10 over 85. But few people financially prepare for a time when they won’t be able to care for themselves, Elaine Stumpo, regional director pf the Alzherimer’s Association in southwest Colorado said.
Long-term care in a nursing home can average $7,600 a month in Colorado, according a national survey by Genworth Financial.
“If you don’t plan for it, you can’t do it,” she said.
Medicaid pays for care after a patient shows no remaining assets or savings.
The area also does not have geriatricians, and many patients must shoulder travel costs to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix or hospitals in Denver, Stumpo said.
The disease can bring feelings of depression for those diagnosed and guilt for caregivers who place loved ones in a home.
Stumpo runs support groups in her region to help patients and caregivers.
The funds from the Cortez walk will all stay locally to help fund the support groups, minigrants for caregivers and public education in southwest Colorado counties, Stumpo said.
Local support groups are held at 6 p.m. every third Wednesday at the Methodist Church and noon Fridays at Vista Mesa.
The Guardian Angel’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be on Sept. 6 at Cortez City Park. Registration is at 9 a.m.; the walk, 10 a.m. There will be a country fair with a silent auction, food, entertainment and games. Donations are appreciated.