A new report finds that one in every three seniors now dies while suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The rate of deaths related to Alzheimer’s disease rose 68% from 2000 to 2010, according to the report. At the same time, deaths from other major diseases, such as heart disease and HIV/AIDs, have declined. “Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis that is here,” said Beth Kallmyer, Vice President of Constituent Services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “One in three seniors is dying with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. For other major diseases, the death rate is decreasing because the federal government funds and invests in research. We have not seen that same commitment for Alzheimer’s disease.”
The report also focused on the toll that Alzheimer’s takes on families, particularly those caregiving from a distance. In 2012, more than 15 million people were Alzheimer’s caregivers. They provided more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care that the Alzheimer’s group estimated valued at $216 billion. According to Kallmyer, direct out of pocket costs for families of people with Alzheimer’s are $34 billion. “The cost of care is a challenge, and not everyone has access to the services they need,” she said. Overall, the report says that the cost of caring for the 5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease is about $203 billion. This figure included Medicare, Medicaid, family costs and private insurance. About $142 billion is being paid by Medicare and Medicaid. More concerning is that the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that by 205, nearly 14 million people will have Alzheimer’s disease. That unfortunately could drive costs for care as high as $1.2 trillion. Currently, the U.S. government funds about $550 million in Alzheimer’s disease. In comparison, heart disease receives about $4 billion in research funding and cancer gets about $6billion, she said. Dr. Brian Appleby, a physician with the Center for Brain Health at the Cleveland Clinic, said he wasn’t surprised by these latest figures.
“Alzheimer’s is going to affect all of us individually. Soon, we’ll all have someone we know or someone in the family or even ourselves with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s something we all need to be prepared for,” Appleby said. He recommends that the best advice to potentially prevent Alzheimer’s disease is to keep your heart healthy by not smoking, having a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise. It also means staying mentally and socially active. Kallmyer also stated “Alzheimer’s is impacting so many people already, and the impact is significant. And, as the baby boomers age, the rate of Alzheimer’s and the death rate from Alzheimer’s is only going to increase.”
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