Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions. It usually develops slowly and gradually gets worse as more brain cells wither and die. Ultimately, Alzheimer's is fatal, and currently, there is no cure.

Who does it Affect?

Over 35 million people worldwide will eventually forget the names of their children, spouses and friends. And those forgotten will witness with sadness and frustration as Alzheimer's disease slowly steals away the loved one they once knew. Alzheimer's disease and related dementias affect an alarming number of individuals across the globe, creating one of the most significant social and health crises of the 21st century. Here are the statistics behind the story:

       U.S.

  • About 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, 96 percent of which are over the age of 65.2
  • By age 85, the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease reaches nearly 50 percent.2
  • The number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease is projected to reach between 11.3 and 16 million people by 2050.
Who's at Risk?
 
Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 and older. But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
 
Learn more: Early Onset Alzheimer's and Risk Factors
 
What are the Symptoms?
 
Alzheimer's worsens over time. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions. 
 Learn More: 10 Warning Signs and Stages of Alzheimer's Disease
 
Is there a Cure?
 
Alzheimer's has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer's treatments cannot stop Alzheimer's from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing. The video below discusses the major advancements in Alzheimer's Disease Care. 
Learn More: Common Treatments
 
 
Who Provides Alzheimer's Care?
 
It's often helpful for caregivers to know they're not alone. Given the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease, many caregivers find themselves in situations similar to others, trying to balance work and family life while also caring for an aging parent or other relative.
 
A typical Alzheimer's family caregiver is a woman between 50 and 64 years of age and works full or part time.
  • Most Alzheimer's caregivers (94 percent) are helping relatives. The most common caregiving relationship is between a parent or parent-in-law and child (62 percent).*
  • An estimated 10.9 million family members and friends provided unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia in 2009, each providing an average of 21.9 hours of care per week.*
  • Somewhere between 981,000 to 1.6 million caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias are "long-distance caregivers," living more than an hour away.*
Impact on Caregivers

The demanding level of care required by someone with Alzheimer's or related dementia takes its toll on a caregiver. The prolonged and progressive nature of Alzheimer's, as well as the way memory loss and other dementia symptoms can cause an individual to need constant assistance and supervision, places enormous physical, emotional and psychological strain on the caregiver.
 
U.S.
 
  • Family and other unpaid caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias are more likely than non-caregivers to report that their health is fair or poor. They are also more likely to say that caregiving made their health worse.*
  • Reports of high or very high emotional stress come from 40 percent of caregivers of people with Alzheimer's or other dementias, compared to 28 percent of those caring for other older people.*
  • An estimated 60 percent of caregivers work full or part time. Two-thirds of working caregivers have missed work because of caregiving responsibilities.*
  • More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; one-third report symptoms of depression.**

Alzheimer's Care Options

 
While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, the impacts of this disease on caregivers and the health system can receive some relief through the use of in home, non-medical care. Using trained Dementia Care providers, like Venture Forthe, to supplement the family caregivers' hard work and dedication can lead to improved caregiver health and may decrease overall health care costs

Sources:

  1. *"2010 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures," 
  1. **"2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures,"