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A new national report suggests 1 in 3 seniors will die from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia as Alzheimer’s increasingly claims more people despite declines in other major diseases in the past decade.
According to the data from the Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures report, released on March 19, Alzheimer’s remains the sixth leading cause of death across the nation, but steadily climbing numbers of attributable deaths each year puts the disease in a league all its own.
More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, and as many as 16 million will develop the disease by 2050.
“We’re at a health crisis right now,” said Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association, during a media conference.
The organization contends Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure or slow its progression.
According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 68 percent between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from other major diseases — HIV (-42%), stroke (-23%) and heart disease (-16%) — have all declined.
Partly as a result of increased diagnostic awareness but also attributable to the aging baby boomer generation, the number of people 65 and older diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Kentucky has increased by 8 percent since 2000 — where about 80,000 people currently live with the disease — and will increase by an additional 23 percent in the next 12 years.
“With Alzheimer’s deaths continuing to rise, it is clear that urgent, meaningful action is necessary,” said Teri Shirk, executive director of the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Without the development of medical breakthroughs that prevent, slow or stop the disease, by 2025, 97,000 Kentuckians will have Alzheimer’s.”
While the emotional toll levied from an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis is immeasurable, the Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report also sheds light on the healthcare costs associated with the disease.
An estimated 15.4 million family and friends provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias that would translate into about $216.4 billion of care in 2012 alone.
The report estimated the direct cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients nears $203 billion, $142 billion of which comes out of Medicare and Medicaid. By 2050, that total cost is expected to reach $1.2 trillion with a 500-percent increase to Medicare and Medicaid costs.
“We should all be very concerned, whether you’re a baby boomer or not, you know one,” Kallmyer told reporters. “All through their lives they’ve been changing how society impacts them but the fact of the matter is as they age, we change how we look at aging too, but Alzheimer’s disease is not part of what we want to think about.
“We really need to fund research so we can delay the significant part of this disease or even prevent it.”
About $500 million in annual budget is spent each year to help fund Alzheimer’s disease research and awareness campaigns. The Alzheimer’s Association presented a National Alzheimer’s Plan to Congress last year to help gain more federal funding.
For more information about the 2013 report or Alzheimer’s resources, visit www.alz.org.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.