November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

An elderly Alzheimer's disease patient is comforted by her adult daughter.

Alzheimer's disease devastates families. A cure may be within reach, but continued funding for research is needed. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Tim & Selena Middleton/Flickr)

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, a time for reflection and urgency, writes McKnight’s. The number of people with the disease is expected to skyrocket over the next few years. In light of this, renewed focus on anti-Alzheimer’s scientific research – and the money needed to keep it going – is needed.

Alzheimer’s disease potentially a $20 trillion problem

Beginning Jan. 1, a baby boomer will turn 65 every eight seconds, greatly increasing  their chances of getting Alzheimer’s, according to a recent New York Times op-ed piece entitled “The Age of Alzheimer’s.” That’s more than 4 million each year, writes former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose husband suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Research into better drugs to combat the disease could delay onset by years if not eliminate the risk entirely. According to the National Institutes of Health, by 2020, Americans will be spending $172 billion per year caring for Alzheimer’s disease patients. That number increases to $20 trillion by 2050, according to projections.

Action is clearly needed to reverse the trend, which is what National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month is about. Alzheimer’s researchers see major medical breakthroughs being possible by 2020 but not without the needed funds. Congress has been asked to enact legislation that would grant Alzheimer’s disease scientists $2 billion in order to work on new drugs and other preventative measures, writes O’Connor in the Times.

Understanding Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is senile dementia that is currently incurable. The degenerative, terminal disease is most often diagnosed in people 65 and older. Initial symptoms include the inability to form new memories and difficulty recalling recently observed facts. A related condition called sundown syndrome – extreme agitation and disorientation that occurs in the later afternoon or early evening – is common among Alzheimer’s patients, writes the Alzheimer’s Disease Support blog. Later, confusion, mood swings, language breakdown, long-term memory loss and loss of bodily functions grow until the person dies. Caring and understanding is needed when dealing with patients at any stage in the Alzheimer’s disease spectrum. Yet the process of care can be nearly as debilitating, particularly when family members and loved ones take on the responsibility of in-home care.


Alzheimer’s Disease Support

McKights’s Long-Term Care News & Assisted Living

New York Times

Don’t forget National Memory Screening Day on Nov. 17

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