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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Alzheimer’s Association Confronts Impending Crisis One Person at a Time

Alz association logo

by Steve Olding, Communications & Public Policy Director, Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati 

The statistics are alarming.

“Today, more than 5 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, including some 50,000 in the Greater Cincinnati area. That number is expected to triple by the mid-century,” said Paula Kollstedt, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati.

Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death and the only disease among the top 10 that has no survivors, no cure or even a way to slow its progress.

It’s little wonder that a many healthcare experts refer to Alzheimer’s as the “disease of the 21st century.”

Alzheimer’s disease knows no social or economic boundaries. It is a neurodegenerative, progressive brain disorder that steals memory, as well as cognitive, functional and motor skills and ultimately life itself. As scientists search for a prevention or cure, great strides are being made in the understanding the pathogenesis and molecular mechanisms of this confounding and devastating disorder.

Alz walk with Kollstedt and Herzog
Paula Kollstedt, Executive Director of Alzheimer's Association of Greater Cincinnati and Bob Herzog, Channel 12 News Anchor 

Unlike many diseases, Alzheimer’s has a devastating financial and emotional impact on the caregiver as well as the patient, increasing its overall societal threat. Numerous studies have shown the high level of psychological and physical stress experienced by caregivers, links to higher incidents of depression, and increased strain on family relationships. For the greater part of the caregiving experience, which often spans five to 10 years or more, about 70 percent of those with dementia live at home and are often cared for by a spouse or a family member who resides outside the home.

In addition to the impact on affected individuals and their caregivers, the cost of Alzheimer’s to American businesses and the nation’s health care system is growing at record levels.

A study released in the New England Journal of Medicine last year reported that Alzheimer’s disease is now the most expensive disease in the United States, costing an estimated $214 billion annually - $150 paid by Medicare and Medicaid. As the “baby boom” population ages, these costs will continue to increase at an alarming rate.

When President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed National Alzheimer’s Disease Month in November of 1983, the Alzheimer’s Association was just three years old. At the time, there were no treatments available for those affected by the disease and caregivers had few, if any, sources of support and information.

Much has changed during the past three decades.

Today, In addition to being the world’s largest private funder of Alzheimer’s research, the Alzheimer’s Association takes a lead role in the care and support of individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s, enhancing awareness and working to ensure meaningful public policy in response to this national healthcare crisis.

The unanimous approval by Congress of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act in 2010 led to creation of a National Alzheimer’s Plan (NAP) - a coordinated federal response to this growing epidemic. One of the key goals of NAP is to find an effective treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s by 2025. The Alzheimer’s Association is playing a key role in the implementation of the plan and its related public initiatives.

A growing number of persons with dementia are being diagnosed earlier in the disease process and many at a younger age. If there are early diagnostic markers and disease modification treatments, this can mean that people will live longer with the disease. As the number of people with Alzheimer's increases, one of the Association’s greatest challenges will be to meet the increasing need for educational and supportive services for families and those affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias.For more than 30 years, the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati has helped thousands of families affected by Alzheimer’s disease in the Tri-state. The Greater Cincinnati Chapter provides a variety of education, support and referral programs to 27 counties in Southern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana. All programs are provided free of charge to families.

In addition to healthcare concerns, the social, economic and political implications of Alzheimer’s disease will only grow larger in scope, unless a cure and treatment are found. It is critical from a research perspective that more dollars be dedicated to Alzheimer’s research.

“For families currently facing Alzheimer’s, care and cure can’t wait,” said Kollstedt. “So our Association offers quality programs and services every day to assist families on this difficult journey, as we work relentlessly to find a prevention and cure.”

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, visit: www.alz.org/cincinnati
or call its 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900.

 

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