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Alzheimer’s burden expected to double by 2060

According to a study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) in the United States is expected to double by 2060.

The CDC predicts the burden to grow from 5 million people in 2004 to 13.9 million in 2060. In percentages, the growth more than doubles from 1.6 percent to 3.3 percent.

“This study shows that as the U.S. population increases, the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will rise, especially among minority populations,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. said in the report. “Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future.”

The CDC says that unless services are dramatically increased over the next few decades, it could become very difficult for patients to get the care they need, and to Heather Mulder, Outreach Program Senior Manager, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, this report has been a wakeup call for their program.

“We have a lot of hope that in the near future we’re going to find a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from happening in people,” Mulder said. “I think it just increases the urgency to get people involved in clinical trials that are happening now … It’s hopefully not going to be the same playing field [in 2060].”  

While ADRD creates obvious health burdens on those diagnosed, it also puts significant social burdens on both the patients as well as their loved-ones.

According to Mulder, “as the disease progresses it becomes more and more challenging for the person with dementia because there’s so much information that that person is having to take in and their brain is having to process instantly … it can lead to stress, it can lead to anxiety, it can lead to fatigue in them, so often times you’ll see the person with dementia start to pull back.”

Mulder added that the primary caregiver of that person will also isolate themselves.

“I think it also gets back to the stigma of the disease too,” she said. “People when they’re not comfortable with something tend to just say ‘oh, no thank you, I don’t want to deal with this…’ So even those long-time friends, long-time family members, [if] it’s not comfortable for them, they [will] start to pull away.”

“Caring for caregivers is a growing public health issue,” Sher’re Walton, CDC, said. “Caregivers face enormous financial, emotional, and social challenges when caring for a person with dementia. As the population grows older, there will be fewer caregivers than there are today.”

According to the CDC, one way to support caregivers is promoting the Medicare care planning and coordination mechanism called the Cognitive Impairment Care Planning billing code (G0505) that reimburses services related to care planning and coordination for patients with cognitive impairment and their caregivers.

The study is the first to examine racial disparities in the future burden of Alzheimer’s. The CDC expects a higher prevalence of dementia in Hispanic American and African American communities, partly because of their population growth over the projected period. They estimate that by 2060 there will be 3.2 million Hispanic Americans and 2.2 million African Americans with ADRD.

“Among people ages 65 and older, African Americans have the highest prevalence (13.8%), followed by Hispanics (12.2%), non-Hispanic whites (10.3%), American Indian and Alaska Natives (9.1%), and Asian and Pacific Islanders (8.4%) in 2015,” said Walton.

Mulder believes breaking-down Alzheimer’s by ethnic groups is important.

[It] will be really powerful in trying to work with these different populations because in the past, we haven’t really been able to put a number to it,” Mulder said.  

According to her, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute has a robust Native American outreach program that raises awareness in the tribal communities in Arizona.

When you’re working with diverse populations, I think the most important part is really understanding who you’re working with and the perspective that they’re coming from,” Mulder said. “Not everybody has the same view of Alzheimer’s disease … every population views aging differently, they view Alzheimer’s disease differently, they view caregiving differently, so, it’s a lot of work to get to know the unique nuances of the culture that you’re working with and then approach it from their perspective.”

Mulder says that Banner Alzheimer’s Institute is working hard on the prevention of ADRD. According to her, the disease can begin forming in a person’s brain 20 years before they begin to show symptoms and researchers at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute are trying to prevent its progression from that point.

For more information about the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute click here. For more information on the CDC study click here.

Emily Richardson

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