TUESDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- There's more troubling
news for America's aging population: A new report finds that one in
every three seniors now dies while suffering from Alzheimer's or
another form of dementia.
In many cases, dementia is the cause of death or contributes to
it, the Alzheimer's Association study finds.
The rate of deaths related to Alzheimer's disease rose 68
percent 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 going down because the federal government funds and invests in research. We have not seen that same commitment for Alzheimer's disease."
Released Tuesday, the report also focuses 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 was valued at $216
Direct out-of-pocket costs for families of people with
Alzheimer's are $34 billion, according to Kallmyer. "The cost of
care is a challenge, and not everyone has access to the services
they need," she said.
About 15 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers live more than an
hour away from their loved ones. Out-of-pocket costs for these
long-distance caregivers are nearly twice as high as those who live
close by. Each year, a long-distance caregiver has nearly $10,000
in expenses compared with about $5,000 for a local caregiver,
according to the report.
"Long-distance caregiving can be financially, emotionally and physically more draining. Managing the day-to-day care can certainly be a challenge, but long-distance caregivers can feel guilt, and they may feel resentment from other family members. And, they may have to manage the daily care from a long distance," Kallmyer said.
Overall, the cost of caring for the 5 million people with
Alzheimer's disease is about $203 billion, according to the report.
That figure includes Medicare, Medicaid, family costs and private
insurance costs. The lion's share of the cost -- about $142 billion
-- is paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
Even more concerning is that the Alzheimer's Association
estimates that by 2050, nearly 14 million people will have
Alzheimer's disease. That could drive costs for Alzheimer's care as
high as $1.2 trillion in 2050.
The U.S. government currently funds about $500 million in
Alzheimer's research, according to Kallmyer. In comparison, heart
disease receives about $4 billion in research funding and cancer
gets about $6 billion, 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
"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 said that while current treatments won't cure or reverse the
disease, they can increase the amount of time until someone needs
nursing home care. Right now, he said, the focus is on trying to
prevent Alzheimer's disease from occurring.
"Alzheimer's disease is really a chronic illness. It starts decades before we see the symptoms," Appleby said. The best advice to potentially prevent Alzheimer's disease is to keep your heart healthy, he said. That means quitting smoking, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise. It also means staying active mentally, he added. Do crosswords and other puzzles, and read, he advised.
And, stay socially active, he recommended. "People who are
socially isolated are at a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease,"
For her part, Kallmyer added: "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."
Create a free care plan for your loved one and find local
resources with the
Alzheimer's navigatorfrom the Alzheimer's Association.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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