Alzheimer’s: Disease of Babyboomers

Published 3:31am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

At the beginning of this year, Babyboomers, more than 10,000 of them a day, began turning age 65.
For many, that may be good news, as retirement, Medicare and Social Security are soon going to be part of their lives. But with age 65 also comes some very frightening news – 65 is the age when the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases significantly.
Current statistics indicate that one of every eight boomers will develop and die with or from Alzheimer’s disease. It will no longer be their grandparents and parents who have to deal with the disease – it will be them, 10 million of them.
Here are some additional facts about this devastating, costly and heartbreaking disease:
Alzheimer’s disease is fatal – today there are no survivors, not one.
There is no sure way to prevent, cure or dramatically slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that impacts the entire family.
Caregivers of loved ones see the day-by-day realities of this relentless and progressive disease as it steals the patient’s memories, autonomy and independence.
Caregivers and families go through the agony of losing a loved one twice: first to the ravaging effects of the disease and then, ultimately, to actual death.
Most Alzheimer’s patients survive 4-6 years after diagnosis, but some can live for up to as many as 10 to 20 years, requiring increasing care and financial outlay for their care.

Today, it is estimated that over 11 million family members and friends provide unpaid care for Alzheimer’s patients, and the demands on their time have been shown to negatively affect their health, employment, income and financial security.
In America today, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every 70 seconds and by the year 2050 the rate of diagnosis will increase to one new Alzheimer’s diagnosis every 33 seconds – more than 1 million new cases per year.
In addition to the devastation and heartbreak of the disease for patients and families, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cost all Americans over $170 billion a year.
Medicare’s costs of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient are expected to increase over 600 percent in the next 35 years, and out-of-pocket family costs for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s will grow by more than 400 percent during that time.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over the next 40 years Alzheimer’s will cost the nation $20 trillion.
To give you an idea of how much money that is, it’s enough to pay off the national debt and still send a check in the amount of $20,000 to every man, woman and child in America. The federal government simply does not have the money to keep up with these explosive costs.
Right now in America, we’re dealing with out of control spending, growing debt and a government that is facing increasing demands for healthcare expenditures. And as I just noted, Alzheimer’s disease is slated to cost this country $20 trillion over the next 40 years.
Our leaders are worried about the cost of oil, wars and a slew of wasteful projects, even as we see the growing reality that Alzheimer’s disease has the potential to bring America to its financial knees. And our nation is doing virtually nothing to stop it.
The National Institutes of Health spends over $6 billion annually on cancer research, more than $4 billion a year on heart disease and in excess of $3 billion on HIV/AIDS.
But the NIH spends only $480 million per year on Alzheimer’s research, even as the tsunami of future Alzheimer’s cases continues to grow.
Our country has always invested in medical development and research. Those efforts have resulted in the eradication of polio, the development of penicillin to fight infections, new drugs to extend our lives as well as medical procedures and techniques to treat and cure many of today’s health problems.
Perhaps, as we look to the future, and notice that the Alzheimer’s disaster has already begun, we as a nation may finally begin to take action on that front.
There is wisdom in attacking this problem now. Funding projects that result in early diagnosis, new drugs that prevent and successfully treat Alzheimer’s disease and ultimately finding a cure are worthy endeavors.
Such an effort will ultimately eliminate Alzheimer’s as a certain death sentence, and will prove to have been a cost effective investment in our future health and financial stability as a nation.
Ron Kauffman is a geriatric consultant and planner, and certified senior advisor. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available at www.seniorlifestyles.net where you can also listen to his weekly podcasts. He can be reached at 561-818-0039 or by email at dron561@gmail.com.

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