If there is one word synonymous with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it is heartbreak, though this is hardly surprising to anyone who has lived with a loved one’s progression through one of these diseases. In the beginning we can do things to keep them stimulated and engaged. By the end we feel helpless and can do almost nothing. It felt like my mother-in-law died twice — once as her brain took away her ability to think and read and remember and understand, and then again when her heart stopped beating.
According to a newly released report from the Alzheimer’s Association, the heartbreak will only increase, as will Alzheimer’s, now that people in the generation born between 1946 and 1960 — more than 70 million baby boomers — move into their senior years. A lot more people are going to get the disease, because it strikes older people.
Alzheimer’s Association Vice President for Public Policy, Robert Egge, interviewed on the CBS Early Show, stated that, “…Alzheimer’s will be the defining disease of the boomer generation.” Egge went on to say that people reaching age 85 will soon have a one in two chance of developing the disease.
The research, Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s Disease: A National Imperative, released on Wednesday, May 19, 2010, contains sobering information, especially for those of us in our 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s. Basically, no treatment or solution is in sight. Today nearly 5.1 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s, and the number is expected to increase steadily, during our senior years and beyond, to more than 13.5 million cases by the year 2050. The cost of care will go through the roof, and the heartbreak will too.
The report also projects and demonstrates, with easy-to-understand graphs, how the number of cases and the massive amounts of money required for care could be positively affected if successful treatments, or at least treatments that delay onset by some number of years, are developed. This scenario is depicted in the graph, reproduced from the study. You can read the Alzheimer’s Association press release to get an overview, but the report itself is a “must read.” All together, the many graphics in the report starkly portray our heartbreaking future, but they also provide a peek at the potential respite from treatment advances.
If you have an aging parent or if you are a member of the baby boom generation it is worth your time to download and read this report. Then, from the Alz.org site, you can send a letter to your Senator or Congressperson about increasing funds for Alzheimer’s treatment research. Or you can just learn more about how to write a good letter and then write your own.
The goals are to reduce the wear and tear — the enormous healthcare burden — on society, and also to reduce the heartbreak.