Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1 in 3 U.S. Seniors Die with Dementia

An alarming statistic has everyone talking: A third of U.S. seniors now die with dementia.

Note they don't necessarily die of dementia, such as Alzheimer's. Instead there may be other contributing factors, but it certainly doesn't help with self-care if you suffer from a memory impairment. You may not remember medications for other life-threatening illnesses or you may no longer eat properly or exercise regularly, which both contribute to a host of illnesses.

The rate of deaths related to Alzheimer's disease rose 68 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the report. At the same time, deaths from other major diseases, such as heart disease and HIV/AIDS, have declined.

"Alzheimer's disease is a public health crisis that is here," said Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer's Association, said in a U.S. News & World Report article. "One in three seniors is dying with Alzheimer's or another dementia. For other major diseases, the death rate is going down because the federal government funds and invests in research. We have not seen that same commitment for Alzheimer's disease."

The report also notes the price caregivers "pay" for loved ones with Alzheimer's. Last year more than 15 million people were Alzheimer's caregivers -- and that's just one form of dementia. If they were paid for the 17 billion hours of care they collectively provided, it would amount to $216 billion. Kallmyer said direct, out-of-pocket costs come to $34 billion.

"The cost of care is a challenge, and not everyone has access to the services they need," she said.

In the same article, a physician with the Center for Brain Health at the Cleveland Clinic said, "Alzheimer's is going to affect all of us individually. Soon, we'll all have someone we know or someone in the family or even ourselves with Alzheimer's disease. It's something we all need to be prepared for."

Are we as a nation and society ready for the 14 million Americans who will develop Alzheimer's by 2040?

The cost on our healthcare system will be enormous, and the emotional and financial toll of families will be equally devastating. Reports like this draw much-needed attention to the public health crisis afoot. It's critical families plan ahead and understand the great demands that will be placed upon them, and how services like our adult day programs can help.

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