The Alzheimer’s Association of the US has just published a sobering report on the growing presence of Alzheimer’s among the growing number of retirees and older Baby Boomers. Those who suffer from the disease require, in the early stages, expensive drug therapies and constant care throughout their later lives. The report discusses the economic, social, familial, and personal tolls that Alzheimer’s imposes on the community.
The disease involves the death of neurons in the brain that normally convey thought and activity and memory throughout the brain. The dying neurons become scar tissue that disrupt the as-yet health neurons around them. Such degradation, we know, is natural to aging (especially after age 70). But numerous genetic and environmental factors have been linked to the growing presence of the disease in the last couple of decades.
An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages havein 2018. This figure includes 5.4 million people aged 65 and older(41), A1 and 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. One in eight people aged 65 and older (13 percent) has Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly half of people aged 85 and older (43 percent) have Alzheimer’s disease.
The report also discusses the sex and racial biases of the disease, which attacks a disproportionate number of Hispanics and women, for example.
Of course, the aging of the American population means a growing number of victims and a growing need to care for them.
In 2010, an estimated 6 million Americans were 85 years and older; by 2050, that number will nearly quadruple to 21 million. … When the first wave of baby boomers reaches age 85 years (2031), an estimated 3.5 million people aged 85 and older will have Alzheimer’s.
Yet, some 80% of care given to those who suffer from the disease is given in the home by an unpaid family member. The strains on the heretofore healthy caregiver, the report stresses, cause their own problems: “Individuals require increasing levels of supervision and personal care, and many caregivers experience high levels of stress and negative effects on their health, employment, income and financial security. The close relationship between the caregiver and the impaired person — a relationship involving shared emotions, experiences and memories — may particularly place caregivers at risk for psychological and physical illness.”
These statistics are grim, in no small part because the demographic trends – the ‘aging tsunami’ that– are heading toward a crest in in the late 2040s. Which means greater costs (up to $1.1 trillion dollars a year) and greater strains on the smaller younger generation that followed their Boomer parents but must bear the brunt of caring for them.
Nevertheless, the report stresses the growing opportunities for early detection and the scientific technologies that can impede the brain’s decay. To note just a few such opportunities discussed in the report:
- Enables potential inclusion in Alzheimer . Benefits of participating in clinical trials include possible slowing of disease progression, if pharmaco- logic or nonpharmacologic therapies being studied in clinical trials prove effective; receipt of expert at leading healthcare facilities — often free of cost — while participating in important medical research; and opportunities to learn in-depth about Alzheimer’s disease through regular contact with trained clinical staff.
- Helps prevent prescription of medications for coexisting conditions that worsen cognitive function.
- Helps facilitate treatment or management of coexisting medical conditions that worsen cognitive function.
- Allows physicians and caregivers to be aware of patients who may have difficulty managing their own health care, such as when and how to take other prescription medications.
- Aids management of possible behavioral symptoms.
The report also offers state-by-state statistics and offers ways to gain further information as might be relevant to your family’s situation, so we encourage you to read it in its entirety. For our Maryland readers, reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association of Maryland, and similar offices exist in other states.