Alzheimer’s disease is increasing at an alarming rate. There is currently no way to prevent or cure it, or even to slow its progression. Here are some important Alzheimer’s facts that everyone should know.
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. Dementia is a brain disorder that impacts the ability to carry out daily activities. It is a degenerative disease that affects memory, thought, and language. It eventually progresses to the point where patients require 24-hour care. The disease always leads to death.
The onset of Alzheimer’s disease usually happens after age 60. Some people can develop it earlier.
Having a family member with any dementia increases your risk. If someone in your family has or had it, share these facts about dementia with other family members.
WHO GETS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s is affecting seniors of all races, and the disease is as prevalent as ever. Here are a few quick facts:
- Five and a half million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s. There may be 16 million people with the disease by 2050.
- Ten percent of Americans over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. Every senior citizen should be aware of the Alzheimer’s disease facts.
- Alzheimer’s disease strikes African-Americans at twice the rate of whites. It strikes Hispanics at one and a half times the rate of whites.
- One-third of seniors has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia by the time they die.
- Alzheimer’s and dementia are not the same things. Dementia is defined as declining mental ability. It must be severe enough to interfere with the person’s daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.
- 45% of Americans over 85 have Alzheimer’s. 13% of those over 65 have it.
- Alzheimer’s affects more women than men. Over two-thirds of those with the disease are women.
- It can be difficult to detect early. Most people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) the earliest form of the disease, don’t know they have it.
- It can strike as early as age 30. Up to 5% of sufferers have the early-onset variety, which can afflict those as early as 30 or 40 years old.
- By 2050, someone will get Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds. This is double the current rate. The growth of the over-65 population is contributing to this increase. This is why it is important for everyone aged 60 and over to know these Alzheimer’s facts.
People with Down syndrome get Alzheimer’s disease at a much higher rate. The extra copy of chromosome 21 which causes Down syndrome also carries the APP gene. The APP gene produces amyloid precursor protein. This is believed to be related to the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Half of people with Down syndrome may get Alzheimer’s. Some scientists believe the number may be much higher.
People with Down syndrome are now living longer. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more common as they age. People with Down syndrome are being carefully studied to learn more about Alzheimer’s.
WHO DIES FROM ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Death from Alzheimer’s disease is a slow, heartbreaking journey. Understanding these Alzheimer’s facts may help you know what to expect. Share this information with friends and family of those who have the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is the fifth leading cause among those 65 and older and is one of the leading causes of poor health.
Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured, prevented, or slowed. It is the only one of the top 10 causes of death that cannot. Research is ongoing, but has not yet had a breakthrough.
People who have Alzheimer’s at 70 are twice as likely to die by age 80, compared to people who don’t have the disease.
It’s important for caregivers to understand Alzheimer’s and dementia facts. Caregiving is stressful. If you know how the disease progresses, and why patients act as they do, it can help you cope.
Over 15 million Americans are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds are women, and a third are over 65.
One quarter of caregivers also have children under 18 years old. This makes them part of the ‘sandwich generation’ of those caring for children and parents.
Caregivers face an increased risk of depression, emotional stress, and financial problems. Four out of ten have a household income of under $50,000. This may be because one spouse cannot work while taking care of an aging parent or other relative.
THE COST OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
One of the Alzheimer’s facts that is rarely talked about is that it is extraordinarily expensive. There is a high level of care required. The duration of the disease is very long. This makes Alzheimer’s an economic crisis as well as a public health crisis.
Health care and other services for those living with Alzheimer’s will cost $259 billion in 2017. Medicare and Medicaid pay about 67% while the rest comes out-of-pocket.
Those with dementia have twice as many hospital stays as seniors without the disease. Medicare pays twice as much in benefits for those with Alzheimer’s as for those without. If you have Alzheimer’s, expect to pay more than five times as much out of pocket for medical expenses.
By 2020, the annual cost to care for those with dementia is estimated to be $1.1 trillion. This includes Medicare, Medicaid, and out of pocket expenditures.
THE STAGES OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Alzheimer’s disease has three stages. Each person progresses through the three stages differently. Some people may stay in stage one for many years. Others will move more quickly through the stages. Most people live for four to eight years after being diagnosed. Some people can live with the disease for up to 20 years.
Stage one is early-stage, or mild Alzheimer’s disease. In this stage, you may continue to live independently and care for yourself to a significant degree. You may have lapses in memory that cause you concern. Having difficulty finding the right words and misplacing objects are also common in this stage. You may forget something you just read, or have trouble performing familiar tasks.
In this video, the wife of someone with Alzheimer’s talks about the early signs she noticed in her husband.
If you are married, your spouse may not recognize the progression. It can occur very slowly and gradually. Your spouse may begin to compensate for your increasing difficulties. This is why the disease may first be suspected by an adult child or someone who does not live with you.
Many people can stay at home during the first stage, especially if they don’t live alone. At the end of stage one or beginning of stage two, you will likely need more care.
Stage two is moderate or middle-stage Alzheimer’s disease. You will no longer be able to function completely independently and will need some level of care. At this stage, you may get words confused, or forget the names of family members and close friends. You may become angry or frustrated, even belligerent. You may avoid personal hygiene habits like regular bathing.
During this stage, you may display changes in behavior and personality. These changes can be upsetting to family members. You may act out toward people close to you, and you may exhibit signs of paranoia or compulsive behavior. It may become more difficult to remember things like your address, phone number, or what day it is. You also may be at risk for wandering.
Stage three is severe or late-stage Alzheimer’s. By the time you reach this stage you may need round-the-clock care. Ability to carry on a conversation or control your body’s movements can become more challenging. You may also be unable to report pain or discomfort. The ability to walk, sit upright, and even swallow are all functions that can become more difficult.
OTHER FORMS OF DEMENTIA
The facts about dementia are very similar to those about Alzheimer’s disease. There are other forms of dementia that are not considered to be Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia refers to symptoms that affect the brain, often including memory loss. A stroke can lead to dementia but it cannot cause Alzheimer’s disease. There are some medications that may improve the symptoms of dementia, but there is no cure.
TREATMENT OF DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
There are several drugs available today that may improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. They may also slow the progression of the disease. There is a lot of money going toward research into new drugs that will prevent or cure the disease.
Behavioral therapy for caregivers can also lessen the impact of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Caregivers are trained to recognize the triggers that can lead to certain behaviors. One of the jobs of caregivers is to prevent these behaviors before they occur. These behaviors can include aggression and wandering.
At present, there is no cure or prevention for Alzheimer’s disease. More research is necessary.
The hope is that, someday soon, one of the most important Alzheimer’s facts will be that there is a cure.
If someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and you’d like to share your experiences, we encourage you to share in the comments section below.