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New study shows national burden of Alzheimer's

Tuesday March 19, 2013
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One in three seniors in the United States dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, according to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association.

While deaths from other major diseases, such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS and stroke, continue to experience significant declines, Alzheimer’s deaths rose by 68% between 2000 and 2010, according to the report.

“Unfortunately, today there are no Alzheimer’s survivors,” Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a news release. “If you have Alzheimer's disease, you either die from it or die with 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.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only leading cause of death without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression, according to the report, “Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Facts and Figures.”

Based on 2010 data, Alzheimer’s was reported as the underlying cause of death for 83,494 individuals. In 2013, an estimated 450,000 people in the United States will die with Alzheimer’s, according to the report. The true number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s is likely to be somewhere between the officially reported number of those dying from and those dying with Alzheimer’s.

According to the report, a recent study evaluated the contribution of individual common diseases to death using a nationally representative sample of older adults and found that dementia was the second-largest contributor to death behind heart failure. Among 70-year-olds with Alzheimer’s disease, 61% are expected to die within a decade. Among 70-year-olds without Alzheimer’s, only 30% will die within a decade.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Without the development of medical breakthroughs that prevent, slow or stop the disease, by 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease could reach 13.8 million, according to the report. Other estimates have suggested the number could be high as 16 million.

Alzheimer’s and dementia place an enormous burden on individuals and families, according to the report. In 2012, there were more than 15 million caregivers who provided more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216 billion. Individuals with dementia often require increasing levels of supervision and personal care. When symptoms exacerbate as the disease progresses, the care required of family members and friends can result in increased emotional stress and health challenges for caregivers, according to the association.

Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.1 billion in additional healthcare costs of their own in 2012, according to the report. As for the burden on the nation’s healthcare system and government programs, payments for health and long-term care services for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will total $203 billion in 2013. Much of the financial burden will be borne by Medicare and Medicaid, with combined costs of $142 billion. By 2050, total costs will increase 500% to $1.2 trillion.

“Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Facts and Figures” also explores the challenges faced by long-distance caregivers for people living with Alzheimer’s. The report found nearly 15% of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia care for people with Alzheimer’s disease who live at least an hour away. These long-distance caregivers had annual out-of- pocket expenses nearly twice as high as local caregivers: $9,654 compared with $5,055.

“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,” said Beth Kallmyer, MSW, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “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 healthcare providers and often have higher levels of psychological distress and family discord in their caregiving experience.”

A summation of the report findings and a link to the full report are available at www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp.


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