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Even for the savviest caregivers, navigating our increasingly complex health-care system is anything but easy.

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A Critical Situation

“It hasn’t been easy,” said 86-year-old Gerry Polnivy, of Oakdale, in suburban Long Island, N.Y. She is the primary caregiver for her husband, also 86, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago.

She rarely leaves him alone these days, except for a quick trip to the supermarket or occasional visit to the library. “Thank goodness my daughter is nearby, and sometimes she takes him to the doctors.” Her husband’s multiple chronic conditions require regular visits to his primary physician, neurologist, urologist, cardiologist and other specialists.

Older people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have more than three times as many hospital stays, more skilled nursing facility stays and home health-care visits than other older people, according to the American Alzheimer’s Association.

Almost everyone with AD (95 percent) has at least one other chronic condition, leading to significantly higher overall health costs when compared with people with chronic medical conditions but no coexisting dementia.

Family caregivers are too often left on their own to monitor multiple conditions, with little good information or education, said Susan Reinhard, PhD, MSN, senior vice-president of the Public Policy Institute of AARP Inc. (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons).

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Liz Seegert

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