November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – a great time for everyone to help shine a spotlight on this impending national health crisis. It’s estimated that 5.3 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, and 4% of those cases qualify as younger onset, attacking people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
AD is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States (5th among those over age 65). It’s also the only one of the top 10 causes of American deaths that can’t be prevented, cured, or even slowed. Simply put, there are no survivors.
Between 2000 and 2010, Alzheimer’s deaths rose 68% while deaths from all other major diseases, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and HIV, have dropped.
Big numbers? Well, consider this:
- Within the next 12 years, there will be 7.2 million adults, age 65 and older, living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
- Unless there is a major medical breakthrough, it’s projected that 13.8 million older Americans (age 65 and over) will have Alzheimer’s by 2050.
Cost of Care
The cost of care is astronomical and growing every day. Estimates indicate that this year alone, the direct costs of caring for those living with Alzheimer’s will total $203 billion. At the rate we’re going, without significant progress toward preventing or treating the disease, costs will rise to $1.2 trillion (in current dollars) by 2050.
Research funding isn’t where it needs to be – not by a long shot. The National Institutes of Health spends over $6 billion/year on cancer research, over $4 billion/year on heart research, and over $3 billion/year on HIV/AIDS research. Less than $500 million/year is spent on Alzheimer’s – the disease that’s shaping up to be the health crisis of our generation.
Government can’t afford additional funding? Well, the alternative only exacerbates that situation. Should we reach the numbers mentioned above by 2050, we’re looking at a 500% increase in Medicare and Medicaid spending. Now who wants to talk about breaking the bank????
Facing the Fear and Raising Awareness
The fact is, there’s a generation of Alzheimer’s caregivers who are terrified about what the future may hold. I know because I’m one of them. Am I destined to follow in my mother’s footsteps? The thought of putting my daughter through that is – well, there’s no doubt – it’s my worst nightmare.
The time is NOW, not tomorrow, next week, or next year. Sign a petition, contact your lawmakers, support organizations like USAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Alzheimer’s Association, and TALK ABOUT IT every time an opportunity presents itself.
We need to get this issue out in the forefront and do everything we can to keep it there for as long as necessary, so that someday we won’t need an Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.