Among the top 10 causes of death in the US, Alzheimer’s disease ranks the 6th. According to the realistic prognoses, the situation is not going to get any better over time. There are three major statements about Alzheimer’s disease that people should be aware of. Firstly, it is very common among the Americans. Secondly, Alzheimer’s is progressive and lethal. Thirdly, it affects not only patients diagnosed with it, but also their close relatives and the country in general. Let us view the three statements more closely below.
According to the recent reports, approximately 5.3 million of Americans have Alzheimer’s in 2015. 96% of this number is people aged 65 or older, and the rest 4% have an early onset of the illness. It is known that over ⅔ of the patients are women. It is also estimated that, by 2050, the number of people affected with Alzheimer’s may rise to 13.8 million, which is 2.6 times over a 35-year time period.
What makes these statistics so pessimistic is that Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental disease which results in dementia. Memory loss, which is often associated with aging, is only one of the symptoms. In a broader sense, the body of a person with Alzheimer’s disease forgets how to function, and even such automatic processes as swallowing are affected. Over 30% of elderly people die with dementia that is caused by Alzheimer’s or another progressive mental disease; in 60-70% of such cases, Alzheimer’s is the cause. While the disease is debilitating on its own, it is usually accompanied by other serious health conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
While certain changes in the body that are caused by Alzheimer’s disease cannot go unnoticed, only less than half of people with Alzheimer’s are aware of their diagnosis. The main reason is that physicians and caregivers decide not to disclose the diagnosis to their elderly relatives, as many believe that it might frustrate and frighten them. In general, it is important to make a diagnosis like this the earliest, as this might even improve their quality of life.
It is crucial to provide proper care to patients with Alzheimer’s. Usually, relatives choose to stay with their elderly family members and care for them. This results in billions of hours of voluntary unpaid care (17.9 billion hours in 2014), which is not only an extreme financial burden on caregivers, but also an economic one on the national level. It has been calculated that families with at least one member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s spend three times as much on medical care as families where nobody has the disease. Apart from unpaid care and expenses on medical services and products, such people suffer from emotional stress and in some cases develop depression. In the broader context, this year’s economic loss due to Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the US has reached $226 billion (these are mainly Medicare costs, and individual expenses are not included). The sum is expected to grow four times by 2050.
Alzheimer’s is not just a lethal condition of the elderly people, but it is also a cause of significant psychological, social, and economic distress in people who deal with the disease in their family members. With millions of Americans slowly fading away with progressing dementia, hundreds of billions of dollars spent on care for Alzheimer’s patients, and billions of unpaid hours of looking after the ill family members, the disease hurts the country psychologically, socially, and economically. This calls for early diagnosis social programs and medical research aimed at finding a cure.
- Alzheimer’s Association. 2015 ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE FACTS AND FIGURES. Alzheimer’s Association, 2015.
- National Institute of Aging. Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease: What You Need to Know. NIH, 2011.
- Hamdy RC. Alzheimer’s Disease: A Handbook for Caregivers. Mosby, 1998.
- Brill MT. Alzheimer’s Disease. Marshall cavendish, 2005.
- Newport MT. Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure? Basic Health Publications, Incorporated, 2013
- Nowotny P, Kwon JM, Goate AM. “Alzheimer’s Disease.” Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Nature Publishing Group, 2001.
- Williams JW et al. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2010.
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This section highlights some of the groundbreaking research and guidance documents published or presented by Alzheimer's Association professional staff, funded researchers or volunteer science advisors.
Review of Scientific Evidence Addressing Prevalence, Documented Needs, and Interdisciplinary Research: Persons in Early Stage Alzheimer’s Dementia (141 pages)
Prepared for the Alzheimer's Association Early Stage Advisory Group by Sandy Burgener, Linda Buettner and collegues
Comprehensive literature review of the scientific literature non-pharmacological interventions for people in Early Stage Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
Research Consent for Cognitively Impaired Adults - Recommendations for Institutional Review Boards and Investigators: Consensus Recommendations (5 pages)
Prepared by the Alzheimer's Association
This paper appeared in Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Disorders July-Sept. 2004. The document contains recommendations that Institutional Review Boards and investigators can use to operationalize the informed consent process for individuals with cognitive impairment.
Interventions to Improve Quality of Care: The Kaiser Permanente-Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Project (8 pages)
Prepared by Alzheimer’s Association Los Angeles chapter staff and Kaiser colleagues
This paper from the August 2004 American Journal of Managed Care describes an Alzheimer’s Association-Kaiser Permanente joint initiative to improve the quality of dementia care in the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles area managed care network. The project developed dementia diagnosis and management guidelines for Kaiser physicians, proactively encouraged guideline use, and provided care management support through social workers. Individuals with dementia, their caregivers and Kaiser health care professionals all expressed higher rates of satisfaction with care quality provided by the project.
Dementia and Serious Coexisting Medical Conditions: A Double Whammy (19 pages)
Prepared by Katie Maslow, M.S.W., Alzheimer’s Association associate director, quality care
This paper from Nursing Clinics of North America 2004, vol. 39, discusses the widespread occurrence of other serious medical conditions in individuals with dementia; explores how coexisting conditions may worsen cognitive symptoms and create treatment challenges for care professionals and family caregivers; and analyzes the impact of coexisting conditions on use and cost of health care.
Alzheimer's Disease, the Alzheimer’s Association and Stem Cell Research (1 page)
Prepared by the Alzheimer’s Association
This document was prepared on June 14, 2005 to provide background information and address common questions about stem cell research and Alzheimer’s disease.
Guidelines for the Development of Community-Based Screening Programs for Cognitive Impairment in Older People (12 pages, guidelines begin on page 6)
Prepared by the Alzheimer’s Association Work Group on Screening for Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease
This paper in the June 21, 2001, issue of Alzheimer Insights, a peer-reviewed online journal, presents the recommendations of independent experts and Alzheimer’s Association senior science and public policy staff on issues and challenges related to community screening for dementia. The guidelines outline 21 questions that must be considered in the design of a community screening program. If many of these questions pose problems, the sponsoring group may wish to consider launching a community education initiative in place of a screening program.
The Use of MRI and PET for Clinical Diagnosis of Dementia and Investigation of Cognitive Impairment: A Consensus Report (15 pages)
Prepared by the Neuroimaging Work Group of the Alzheimer's Association
Posted June 1, 2004
This report represents the consensus of 22 independent experts assembled by the Alzheimer's Association on the current value and appropriate use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, tracking disease progression, and monitoring response to experimental treatments. The report also recommends directions for future research.
End-of-Life Care for People with Dementia in Residential Care Settings (35 pages)
Prepared for the Alzheimer’s Association by Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa
The Alzheimer’s Association commissioned this literature review on end-of-life care for nursing home residents with advanced dementia as part of its Campaign for Quality Residential Care. The goal is to document the current state of end-of-life care, provide an evidence base for practice and policy recommendations to improve care, and stimulate further research in this area.
University of North Carolina Institute on Aging's Online Bibliography on Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia in Diverse Populations
Comprehensive online bibliography of the social and behavioral research related to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
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