Elderly and Autonomy Some studies predict that nearly half of all Americans who reach the age of eighty-five will experience symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, including memory loss and confused thinking. NPR's Wendy Schmelzer reports that even mild dementia can be a serious problem -- not only for the person affected, but for his or her family. Care can be very expensive. And it can be hard to ensure the safety of a person who is forgetful, or who tends to wander off. But the biggest battles between adult caregivers and their elderly relatives often concern issues of autonomy and control.