As the population of older Americans continues to grow at a historic rate, issues that impact the elderly are now taking center stage in the American conscious. One of the most worrisome of those issues is the Alzheimer’s crisis. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increasing right along with the increase in seniors in America. Whether you are nearing your “Golden Years” yourself, or you have a loved one who is, you undoubtedly want to know the latest on the Alzheimer’s crisis in America.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, deterioration of thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex. Unlike many other diseases, such as AIDS, experts do not believe Alzheimer’s has a single cause. Instead, they believe the disease is multi-faceted with a number of factors influencing the development of the disease. The complexity of the disease makes finding a cure, and even effective treatment for those suffering from the disease, more difficult. While there are some medications on the market now that help slow the cognitive decline that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s for some people, we are not yet close to finding a truly effective treatment regime, much less a cure.
Facts and Figures on the Alzheimer’s Crisis
Every year the Alzheimer’s Association publishes new figures relating to Alzheimer’s in America. The following are new figures for 2018, with comparisons from 2017and estimates for the future when available to help you see how the disease is increasing in frequency and cost.
- An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s, up from 5 million in 2017.
- Of the 5.7 million sufferers, an estimated 5.5 million people are age 65 and older while there are approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
- Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
- One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia.
- Older African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
- Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
- Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds, compared to every 66 seconds in 2017.
- By 2050, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Between 2000 and 2015, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease as recorded on death certificates increased 123 percent, while deaths from the number one cause of death (heart disease) decreased 11 percent.
- Among people age 70, 61 percent of those with Alzheimer’s are expected to die before the age of 80 compared with 30 percent of people without Alzheimer’s — a rate twice as high.
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of age-related dementia.
- 1 million people provide unpaid care to someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias. In 2016, there were 15 million unpaid caregivers.
- Unpaid caregivers provide 18.4 billion hours of care
- The value of unpaid care provided by caregivers is thought to be over $232 billion
- About one in three caregivers (34 percent) is age 65 or older.
- Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women; more specifically, over one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters.
- Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.
- Alzheimer’s and other dementias cost the U.S. $277 billion
Contact Illinois Elder Law Attorneys
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns regarding how to plan for the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease in your estate plan, contact the experienced Illinois elder law attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.