The sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.3 million people in the U.S. alone, and 1 in 9 Americans aged 65 and older has the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, which released the 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. The organization also estimates that the U.S. will spend $226 billion in 2015 on health care, long-term care and hospice services for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That figure doesn’t include unpaid care. Dementia is a general term for long-term memory loss and there are many different types, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month and the theme for 2015 is “Remember Me,” as the goal for this year is to encourage people all around the world to recognize the signs of dementia, and to remember loved ones who are living with the disease and those who died from it. Sept. 21 is Alzheimer’s Action Day, the goal of which is to raise awareness and funding for the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
Alzheimer’s disease can drastically change a person’s life and can significantly affect him or her socially, cognitively and occupationally. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by memory decline that progressively worsens. Common signs of memory loss in people with the disease include forgetting to turn off the stove, misplacing keys, getting lost while driving or forgetting where they live.
Gradually, patients with this type of dementia can also exhibit changes in their mood such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, agitation and paranoia. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, patients might need assistance with basic daily living activities such as dressing, bathing and toileting. Eventually, they might also have difficulty walking and swallowing. The prognosis ranges, but it is not good. The time from diagnosis to death can take anywhere from three to 10 or more years.
The toll on Alzheimer’s caregivers
It is imperative to find a cure for and prevent this debilitating disease, which not only affects the person with the diagnosis, but also the loved ones and caregivers. Caring for a family member or a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be taxing on caregivers. It can cause them to leave their jobs, stop doing the things they enjoy or take time away from their own children or grandchildren.
Remembering the importance of World Alzheimer’s Month and recognizing the medical advancements that need to be made is the first step in educating people about this terrible disease and hopefully finding a cure.