September is World Alzheimer’s Month with September 21 being designated as World Alzheimer’s Action Day. While this designation may not make a big difference to your parent or spouse who has already developed Alzheimer’s, it does serve to remind us all that Alzheimer’s is a global issue. Researchers worldwide are working to find a way to prevent or cure this devastating disease that has the potential to destroy not only families but economies.
The World Health Organization website Icon states that 35.6 million people have dementia worldwide, with just more than half living in low and middle-income countries. The total number of people with dementia is projected to almost double every 20 years, to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association (U.S.),costs of caring for those with Alzheimer's to American society will total an estimated $203 billion, including $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Total payments for health care, long-term care and hospice for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias are projected to increase from $203 billion in 2013 to $1.2 trillion in 2050 (in current dollars). This dramatic rise includes a 500% increase in combined Medicare and Medicaid spending.
What is being done?
On September 20th of this year, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) will launch the World Alzheimer Report 2013. This year the theme is long-term care. According to their research, the traditional system of informal care provided by family, friends, and community alone will not be sustainable. The report will address the issue of increased care needs for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Scientific research for a cure or a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease is also being carried out around the globe.
- Just recently, University of California Los Angeles researchers discovered a promising link between tau and beta-amyloid proteins, which are thought to be responsible for the characteristic plaques and tangles found in aging brains, and excess iron in the brain.
- In April of this year, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden identified specific changes in the energy hubs of nerve cells that happen early in the Alzheimer’s disease process. The findings could help researchers understand what happens to nerve cells during the disease and identify new targets for treatments.
- Late last year, a Canadian study demonstrated that deep brain stimulation can reawaken circuits in the brain that lay down memory. People in the clinical trial had two electrodes implanted in the brain, which are connected to a battery implanted in the chest area. The brain is stimulated by these electrical impulses, sparking the memory center into activity.
These and hundreds of other studies being conducted worldwide need funding. It’s imperative that this disease be brought under control. Events such as World Alzheimer’s Month and World Alzheimer’s Action Day are one way to bring awareness to more people about the need to aggressively seek answers. If you want to know what you can do personally, call your local Alzheimer’s organization or go online to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America or the Alzheimer’s Association. You can donate money, time and ideas to help with awareness campaigns and increase research funding. Alzheimer’s disease affects us all in some way. Do what you can to help people understand that each of us will be touched in some way by this brutal and financially devastating disease.