Colorado Alzheimer’s totals continue to rise

First the good news: research to find a cure for Alzheimer’s – the last major disease without a prevention, treatment or cure – is being funded at record-high levels, and there is promising research that offers hope for the future.

The other side of the coin is that more people in the United States – 5.8 million – are living with Alzheimer’s dementia today, including a record-high 73,000 Coloradans. Globally, the estimate is 47 million people, with someone new developing the disease every three seconds. “We are definitely making progress,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “The National Institutes of Health currently has a $2.3 billion annual research budget for Alzheimer’s, up from $562 million in 2014. But until we have a cure in hand and can point to that first survivor of Alzheimer’s, we cannot rest.” According to the 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, which provides the most comprehensive look at the state of the disease, following are some key facts about Alzheimer’s:

  • An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019, including 200,000 under the age of 65.
  • By 2025 — just six years from now — the number of people in the U.S. age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is estimated to reach 7.1 million — an increase of 27 percent from the 5.6 million people age 65 and older affected in 2019.
  • In Colorado, the total in 2025 is expected to reach 92,000 – a 26 percent increase. Barring the development of medical breakthroughs, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is expected to increase 146 percent by 2050 – from 5.6 million to 13.8 million. Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. – as recorded on death certificates – have increased 145 percent since 2000, while the number of deaths from the No. 1 cause of death (heart disease) decreased 9 percent.

Alzheimer’s research
Research to find a prevention, treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s is proceeding at the fastest pace in history. Beyond funding from the U.S. Government to the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer’s Association – the world’s largest non-profit funder of dementia research – currently has more than $165 million invested in over 450 active research projects in 25 countries around the world. One of the more promising new research studies is the SPRINT-MIND study, reported at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. The study pointed to “significant reductions in the risk

of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and the combined risk of MCI and dementia, through intensive intervention to reduce blood pressure. “The SPRINT-MIND study is a major breakthrough because it provides very specific steps that every person can take to reduce their risk of cognitive decline,” said Schafer. “The Alzheimer’s Association is now expanding upon that study to determine if other lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise and socialization, can reinforce and expand upon those very measurable benefits.” Other information contained in the 2019 Facts and Figures report includes:

Cost of care
Total national cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated at $290 billion (not including unpaid caregiving) in 2019, of which $195 billion is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid; out-of-pocket costs represent $63 billion of the total payments, while other costs total $32 billion. Total payments for health care, long-term care and hospice care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are projected to increase to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2019 dollars). In 2018, the lifetime cost of care was greater for those with dementia than those without ($350,174 versus $192,575, respectively).

Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers, meaning they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18. In 2018, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours of unpaid assistance, valued at $233.9 billion (based on a time value of $12.64/hour). This is equal to approximately 46 percent of the net value of Walmart’s total revenue in 2018 ($500.3 billion) and more than 10 times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2017 ($22.8 billion).

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