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The Truth about Alzheimer's

My current AARP magazine has a feature article on Alzheimer’s. I was fascinated by the “facts” and information about this condition and will spend the next 2 articles on transmitting the info to all of you.

Like all of you, I think I know a lot about Alzheimer’s. I was humbled to know that I don’t know very much at all. I knew that it is a cognitive brain disorder that usually affects older individuals, although occasionally younger adults develop it. I know there is no cure. I know it is slow to progress and that the disease can linger for years or decades. I know that it tends to run in families. I know more women develop Alzheimer’s than men but that both sexes have been affected.

What I didn’t know:

                Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America;

                The cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s has surpassed the cost of treatment for cancer patients or victims of heart disease;

                The number of cases of Alzheimer’s increases yearly;

                Alzheimer’s is federally underfunded compared to other disorders and research on prevention and treatment.

                This year, $5.4 billion goes to cancer research, $1.2 billion to heart disease, $3 billion for HIV/AIDS, and only about $566 million to Alzheimer’s

 

According to Huntington Potter, a neurobiologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Alzheimer’s is going to bankrupt both Medicare and Medicaid.

At this time, Alzheimer’s currently costs the US some $214 billion annually. Care of the patients will cost Medicare and Medicaid $150 billion this year and the remaining costs fall largely on patients and their families. According to a study by Caring.com, a website for family caregivers, 42% of families that include someone with Alzheimer’s spend more than $20,000 annually for care.

Why has the federal government been so stingy about funding research? One explanation is that there is still a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s and other dementias and people don’t want to talk about it. The Alzheimer’s diagnosis is akin with a cancer diagnosis years ago. People called it “the big C” and refused to discuss it. Robert Egge, chief public policy officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, feels that the sense is that it is a problem but we have time to deal with it.

Later this week, I’ll look at what is being done and the amount of money needed to actually research this correctly.