A new study released by the Alzheimer's Association paints a grim picture of the health consequences of Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias in the United States alone. According to the latest figures released in the report, one in three seniors experiences some form of dementia before dying and Alzheimer's Disease alone represents the sixth leading cause of death in the United States overall and the fifth leading cause for people over 65. As of this year, an estimated 5.2 million Americans have some form of Alzheimer's (including 200,000 Americans under the age of 65). Since the disease is frequently underdiagnosed, many patients and the family members may have no idea they have it. More women than men have the disease with 16 per cent of all women aged 71 years and older being affected (as opposed to 11 per cent of men in that age group).
The cost of caring for Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias has risen to $203 billion and is expected to climb over $1.2 trillion by 2050 if no treatment advances are made. Despite being the most common form of dementia, other diseses such as Vascular (stroke-related) Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, and Pick's Disease are also expected to increase in the coming years. At present, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's every 68 seconds. That figure is expected to drop to every 33 seconds by 2050.
In a press release publicizing the report, Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer's Association stresses that ""Alzheimer's disease is a public health crisis that is here." "One in three seniors is dying with Alzheimer's or another dementia. For other major diseases, the death rate is going down because the federal government funds and invests in research," she said in an interview with US News Health. "We have not seen that same commitment for Alzheimer's disease."
Along with the devastating toll on dementia patients, the disease also places a heavy burden on family members who are often obliged to act as full-time caregivers with little or no financial support from government programs. In 2012 alone, more than 15 million Americans acted as caregivers for Alzheimer's patients and the estimated 17 billion hours of unpaid care they provide was valued at $216 billlion. For those expenses which are covered by government programs, the total cost of caring for 5 million Alzheimers patients is $203 billion, most of which comes from Medicare and Medicaid. The current health care system, already strained to the limit, is expected to be completely overwhelmed by the soaring increase in health care costs required to care for dementia patients in the coming years.
Along with calling for increased government aid for Alzheimer's patients, the report provides new guidelines for diagnosis which can catch dementia cases sooner when treatment might be more effective. Facts and figures on Alzheimer's Disease and some of the risk factors associated with it are also provided as well as a breakdown in figures across the United States. Southern and western states are expected to show the greatest increase in the coming years. Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming will more than double the number of Alzheimer patients over the next 20 years.