September 13th, 2011
The latest statistics on Alzheimer’s are staggering: About 5.4 million Americans suffer from the disease, or have a similar dementia. It’s the sixth-leading cause of death. There is no cure. By 2050, anywhere from 13 million to 16 million Americans are projected to have Alzheimer’s, costing a $1 trillion in medical and nursing home expenditures.
Those who realize the toll of Alzheimer’s, however, are doing something about it– making recommendations to the Obama administration for its developing National Alzheimer’s Plan.
“[Alzheimer's ] sufferers lose the ability to do the simplest activities of daily life and can survive that way for a decade or more, requiring years of care from family, friends or paid caregivers. Already a recent report finds that nearly 15 million people, mostly family members, are providing more than $200 billion worth of unpaid care.
Thousands of those caregivers have turned out at public meetings since early August — and at a “telephone town meeting” organized by the Alzheimer’s Association that drew 32,000 people — pleading for a national Alzheimer’s strategy to bring changes.
They want primary care doctors trained to diagnose dementia earlier, describing how years of missed symptoms cost them precious time to make plans or seek treatment. That’s a recommendation being echoed Tuesday in an international Alzheimer’s report.
They demand to know why the National Institutes of Health spends about six times more on AIDS research than on Alzheimer’s, when there are good drugs to battle back the HIV virus but nothing comparable for dementia.
Overwhelmingly, they ask for resources to help Alzheimer’s patients live their last years at home without ruining their caregivers’ own health and finances.
“Either you’re rich and can afford $25 an hour for care at home, or you send him to a facility. We’re in the middle of the road,” says Shirley Rexrode of suburban San Francisco, whose 85-year-old father, Hsien-Wen Li, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nearly three years ago.
Adult day care didn’t work out — even at $90 a day, the only place with an opening couldn’t handle the behaviors of Alzheimer’s. Rexrode says her mother, Li’s primary caregiver, has suffered some depression from the stress.
“We just have to muddle through, but we don’t know how long we can,” Rexrode says.”
Also, check out a story published today by Reuter’s, which reveals that most cases of dementia are not diagnosed:
About 28 million of the nearly 36 million people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have not been diagnosed, robbing them from the benefit of treatments and the chance to have a say in their future care, according to a report released Tuesday.
It found that many people are not diagnosed with dementia until the disease is well advanced.
“Failure to diagnose Alzheimer’s in a timely manner represents a tragic missed opportunity to improve the quality of life for millions of people,” said Dr. Daisy Acosta, chairman of Alzheimer’s Disease International, a patient advocacy group that sponsored the study.
The group last year estimated that Alzheimer’s and other dementias cost $604 billion globally to treat, a figure that will soar as the number of sufferers triples by 2050.