Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, explained that there are no Alzheimer's survivors - people with the disease either die with it or from it. "Now we know that 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia. Urgent, meaningful action is necessary, particularly as more and more people age into greater risk for developing a disease that today has no cure and no way to slow or stop its progression."
What is the difference between Alzheimer's and Dementia? - Dementia is not a disease in itself, Alzheimer's is. Dementia is a non-specific syndrome (set of symptoms) in which certain areas of brain function may be affected, such as language, problem solving, memory, and attention. When dementia appears initially, the higher mental functions of the patient are involved. In the later stages of dementia, the patient may have no idea what day of the week, month or year it is, they may not know where they are, and find it hard to identify people around them.
Alzheimer's is the leading cause of death among unpreventable/incurable diseases in the USA, and the sixth leading cause of death from any type of disease.
Not all health care professionals believe Alzheimer's is unpreventable. Researchers from the University of California found that over half of all Alzheimer's disease cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes and reducing major risk factors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, proper treatment for chronic conditions like depression, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
In 2010, Alzheimer's was the underlying cause of death for 83,404 patients in the United States. The new report - Facts and Figures 2013 - estimates that 450,000 Americans will die with Alzheimer's this year. Dying from Alzheimer's is not necessarily the same as dying with Alzheimer's - a person with Alzheimer's may die of cancer or heart disease.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the true number of deaths is probably somewhere in between the number who die from Alzheimer's and with the disease.
The new report showed that after heart failure, dementia is the second largest contributor to death among older adults.
Among 70-year-old Americans...:
- ...with Alzheimer's disease - 61% will die within ten years
- ...without Alzheimer's disease - 30% will die within ten years
Alzheimer's has a human and financial tollUnless news medications or treatments that prevent, slow or halt the disease are found, the current total of 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease may reach 13.8 million by the middle of this century. Some estimates place the figure at 16 million.
In 2012, US Health Authorities said an effective Alzheimer's disease treatment must be available by 2025 - an ambitious deadline, some may say, because there are no experimental treatments that might cure the disease currently in the pipeline.
The burden on patients, caregivers and their loved ones - in 2012, at least 15 million caregivers provided over 17 billion hours of care valued at $216 billion - this was unpaid work.
As their symptoms progress, people with dementia usually need more and more supervision and personal care. Most dementias, and definitely Alzheimer's are progressive, as the demands placed on caregivers, family members and friends increase, so do their levels of emotional stress - eventually, their health is usually affected.
Caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and dementia had $9.1 billion in further health care costs of their own in 2012.
More than half of all caregivers say they are "not very" or "not at all" able to communicate with their loved ones, with conversations about medical decisions, insomnia/sleep disturbances, personal hygiene, emotions and medications.
The burden on the country's health care system - according to the new report, $203 billion will be spent in 2013 for health and long-term care services for patients with Alzheimer's and other dementias, most of which will be borne by Medicare and Medicaid ($142 billion). This figure is dwarfed by the $1.2 trillion estimate for 2050, an increase of more than 500%.
Below is a breakdown of health and long-term care services in the USA in 2013
- $107 billion (53%) - Medicare
- $35 billion (17%) - Medicaid
- $34 billion (17%) - Out-of-Pocket Costs
- $27 billion (13%) - Other Sources (Private Insurance, HMO, Uncompensated Care, and Managed Care Organizations)
- $203 billion - Total
"Alzheimer's disease steals everything - steadily, relentlessly, inevitably. With baby boomers reaching the age of elevated risk, we do not have time to do what we have always done. The National Institutes of Health needs to reset its priorities and focus its resources on the crisis at our doorstep, and Congress must fully fund implementation of the National Alzheimer's Plan to solve the crisis."
Long-Distance CaregivingA Long-Distance Caregiver is somebody who cares for somebody, in this case an individual with Alzheimer's or another dementia, and lives at least one hour away. According to "Facts and Figures 2013", almost 15% of caregivers are long-distance ones.
American long-distance caregivers' out-of-pocket expenses per year average $9,654, compared to $5,055 for local caregivers.
Beth Kallmyer, MSW, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer's Association, said "The difficulties of Alzheimer's and dementia are significant for all caregivers, but individuals who live a substantial distance from their loved ones face unique hardships. Long-distance caregivers have nearly double the out-of-pocket expenses of local caregivers, experience greater challenges assessing the care recipient's conditions and needs, report more difficulty communicating with health care providers and often have higher levels of psychological distress and family discord in their caregiving experience."
Alzheimer's NavigatorAlzheimer's Navigator is a useful tool for people with Alzheimer's, as well as caregivers and family members to evaluate their needs and develop an action plan that suits the individual.
The tool provides information, support and useful resources. It works in conjunction with Community Resource Finder, an extensive database of care and housing options, legal experts, programs and services which allow users to rapidly find and get support.
Written by Christian Nordqvist