Alzheimer's Awareness Facts

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve tried to describe the personal toll that Alzheimer’s Disease can take. Because November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, I thought it would be helpful to look at this disease from a broader perspective.

    Therefore, I wanted to share some thought-provoking statistics with you. The statistical information about this terrible disease is provided from the Alzheimer’s Association’s website. The additional information, which is italicized, was found at different websites and helps to put the significance of this disease into context.
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    • An estimated 4.5 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease. That number is just slightly less than the total population of Ireland. The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s has more than doubled since 1980 and will continue to grow. It is estimated that by 2050, more than 11 million people could be afflicted with this disease.

    • A person with Alzheimer’s disease will live an average of eight years and as many as 20 years or more from the onset of symptoms as estimated by relatives. From the time of diagnosis, people with Alzheimer's disease survive about half as long as those of similar age without dementia. Average survival time is affected by age at diagnosis and severity of other medical conditions.

    • Alzheimer’s disease costs American business $61 billion a year, according to a report commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association. Of that figure, $24.6 billion covers Alzheimer health care and $36.5 billion covers costs related to caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s, including lost productivity, absenteeism and worker replacement.

    • The average lifetime cost of care for an individual with Alzheimer’s is $174,000. More than 7 out of 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease live at home, where almost 75 percent of their care is provided by family and friends. The remainder is “paid” care costing an average of $19,000 per year. Families pay almost all of that out of pocket. The average cost for nursing home care is $42,000 per year but can exceed $70,000 per year in some areas of the country. These health care costs place a tremendous burden on the caregiving family’s financial situation. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2005, Black households had the lowest median income ($30,858) while Asian households had the highest median income ($61,094). The median income for non-Hispanic white households was $50,784. Median income for Hispanic households was $35,967.

    • The federal government estimates spending approximately $647 million for Alzheimer’s disease research in fiscal year 2005. Although this number initially sounds impressive, you need to compare it to some of the other projects authorized by the U.S. Congress. For instance, Alaska received appropriations of $223 million to build a bridge that will link the Ketchikan (population of 8,000) to Gravina Island (population of 50).

  • These numbers describe how our country’s economic health is linked to finding a cure to this disease. As the U.S. Congressional leadership changes, we have an excellent opportunity to make our case heard to our newly elected leaders. We need to talk not only about allocating appropriate funding levels for scientific research, but also providing economic support to families who are currently caring for loved ones with this disease. It’s going to take a concentrated effort among legislators, researchers, businesses, and the general population to defeat this terrible disease. If we don’t take action now, the approaching tidal wave of Alzheimer’s may very well defeat our nation.
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Published On: November 14, 2006