Incidence of Alzheimer’s disease continues to rise as boomers age

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Image by Ed Yourdon via flickr.

Image by Ed Yourdon via flickr.

The Alzheimer’s Association just released its latest report, “2014 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures.” This special supplement in Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia paints a stark picture about what lies ahead for many older adults. More than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s and related dementia; 200,000 are suffering from early onset (under age 65). However, the vast majority are senior citizens. One in nine people aged 65 years and older has Alzheimer’s, about 11 percent of the population. By 2050, it’s estimated there will be nearly one million new cases diagnosed annually.

Between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of deaths from Alzheimer’s increased by 68 percent. This is two to three times greater than deaths from heart disease (16 percent) or stroke (23 percent) during the same period. Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death among adults over age 65. The report projects that in 2014, nearly three-quarters of a million older adults (700,000) will die with the disease or from its complications. It’s also an expensive disease – total payments this year for health, long term, and hospice care are estimated to hit $214 billion.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Almost two-thirds of Americans over age 65 with Alzheimer’s are women — 3.2 million females compared with 1.8 million males. Among those aged 71 years and older, 16 percent of women have Alzheimer’s and other dementias compared with 11 percent of men. This is primarily because women generally live longer than men, and older age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. A breakdown of prevalence by ethnic group is also included in the report.
  • Age is still the greatest risk factor. It’s projected that more than 238,000 people over age 85 will develop Alzheimer’s in 2014; that’s more than those in the 65-74 and 75-84 age groups combined (59,000 and 172,000). This table summarizes projected incidence by state.
  • As baby boomers continue aging , some 7.1 million people age 65 years and older are expected to have the disease by 2025 – a 40 percent increase from today’s statistics. Without any major medical breakthroughs the report projects some 13.8 million older adults will have Alzheimer’s by 2050.
  • The burden of AD has increased more significantly in the U.S. in the past decade than other diseases. The long duration of illness before death contributes significantly to the public health impact of Alzheimer’s because much of that time is spent in a state of disability and dependence. Between 2000 and 2010 Alzheimer’s went from the 25th to the 12th most burdensome disease overall, and from 32nd to 9th in terms of lost life-years. No other disease, according to the report, showed that type of dramatic change.
  • In 2013, unpaid caregivers – primarily spouses, adult children and friends – provided some 17 billion hours of informal care, at an estimated value of $220.2 billion. Eighty-five percent of help provided to all older adults in the United States is from family members. Caregivers helped with tasks ranging from activities of daily living like bathing and dressing, to managing finances, medication reconciliation and dispensing, overseeing paid or institutional care, handling behavioral problems, and advocating for their loved one with government agencies and service providers.
  • In 2014, Medicare and Medicaid are expected to cover $150 billion, or 70 percent, of the total health-care and long-term care payments for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Out-of-pocket spending is expected to be $36 billion, or 17 percent of total payments.
  • People with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have more than three times as many hospital stays per year as other older people, Those with coronary artery disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, or cancer who also have Alzheimer’s and other dementias have higher use and costs of health-care services than people with these medical conditions but no coexisting dementia. This section provides the most current state-by-state breakout of costs and a national breakout of cost by setting – nursing home, adult day services, special care units.

This report devotes an entire section to women and Alzheimer’s, highlighting the Association’s recent findings on gender-specific prevalence, incidence, and caregiver burden. They concluded that women face a heavier burden than men – especially as caregiving responsibilities go on over time, and that women are less likely than men to receive additional family or social service support. This in turn, creates greater long term emotional and physical stress and more lost employment opportunities.

4 thoughts on “Incidence of Alzheimer’s disease continues to rise as boomers age

  1. Pingback: Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease Continues to Rise as Boomers Age | Lake Oconee Boomers

  2. Eileen Beal

    This — the rising incidence of ALZ — is probably the major unexpected consequence of the longevity dividend (that extra 10-15 years we are all gonna get due to having lived “better” than our grandparents).

    Another instance of be careful what you wish for (in this case, longer life), cuz you may get it.

    E. Beal

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