As the baby boomer generation continues to age, it’s clear that Alzheimer’s disease is placing a strain on the general population. Shockingly, when looking at the most current stats, deaths related to this degenerative disease have rose 55 percent.
Although rising rates and associated deaths are considering to be a major public health concern, it’s clear that family members are also experiencing the heavy burden associated with caregiving roles. We’re reaching a point where something dire needs to happen — as this current issue continues to grow.
Report — Alzheimer’s Mortality Rates, 1999-2014
Based on a report, released on May 26th, 2017, from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, it’s clear that Alzheimer’s death rates are at an all-time high. Currently the sixth leading cause of death within the United States, this disease requires constant care within the final stages of development.
Examining the deaths of Alzheimer’s patients from 1999-2014, when age-adjusted, an increase of 54.5 percent was recorded. In 1999, there were 16.5 deaths per 100,000, which rose to 25.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2014. When ages were not adjusted based on the 2000 standard population, death rates had increased even further.
Although most individuals passed away within a long-term care facility, the percentage who died within a medical facility decreased from 14.7 percent in 1999, to just 6.6 percent in 2014. While looking at the percentage of patients who died at home — well, this rate increased from 13.9 percent in 1999 to a shocking 24.9 percent in 2014.
The combination of increased home-care and rising death rates, showcases the level of strain placed on those who are providing unpaid care. For those who have been ‘thrown into’ this role, would likely benefit from key interventions regarding respite care and education. This would not only reduce burden, but also improve care for those with Alzheimer’s.
The data as discussed above, was collected from the National Vital Statistics System, after reviewing death certificates from 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. While focusing on age-specific rates:
- Deaths due to Alzheimer’s increased among adults aged 75-84 years, jumping from 129.5 per 100,000 in 1999 — to 185.6 per 100,000 in 2014.
- Of those who were 85+ years of age, death rates jumped from 601.3 per 100,000 in 1999 — to a startling 1,006.8 per 100,000 in 2014.
- The greatest increase was seen among adults aged 85+ years between 1999 and 2005. Although death rates have continued to rise, the rate of increase was not as dramatic between 2005 and 2014.
- In 2014, rates were higher across all ages, compared to rates in 1999. Also, in 2014, mortality rates were higher among women than men, as well as among non-Hispanic whites in comparison to other ethnic populations.
What Does It All Mean?
At this point, the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age. As the population continues to age, based on the baby boomer population, we will likely continue to see an increase in Alzheimer’s-related death rates. By 2050, current rates of Alzheimer’s are believed to quadruple.
It’s obvious that rising rates of Alzheimer’s directly influence the individuals involved — but we also need to look at societal and financial costs. After all:
- In 2017, while focusing on total health and long-term costs for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia within the United States, this total is expected to be around $259 billion.
- Of those not living in a long-term care facility, the majority of care is provided by unpaid family members. In 2015 alone, an estimated 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care was provided, reducing work productivity — resulting in financial loss.
While focusing on possible modifiable factors, it appears that obesity and fewer years of education can increase your risk.
Focusing on the big picture, until we identify a way to slow down the progression of this disease — or find a cure, this will continue to be a a top public health priority. At this time, this disease requires bold, immediate action — so what can we expect in 2017?
Health Priorities Associated with Alzheimer’s for 2017
As discussed by the Alzheimer’s Association, there are three key areas of focus for the year 2017, in the hopes that we’ll increase some level of control over this major public health concern. At this time, the top priorities include, but are not limited to:
- Implementing the Public Health Road Map — initially released in 2013, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alzheimer’s Association, The Healthy Brain Initiative was released. This ‘Road Map’ identified 35 specific action items, in order to promote cognitive functioning, while meeting the needs of caregivers.
- Increasing Early Diagnosis — although there is no cure, it’s clear that early intervention is imperative. More specifically, fewer than half of all people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, are unaware of their condition — including their caregivers. In order to ensure the best possible outcomes, early diagnosis is critical. In order to do so, the general public needs to better understand key warning signs, in addition to early screening. The BrainTest app is intended to help concerned individuals better understand possible warning signs, so that they can seek a professional opinion.
- Educating the Public About Risk Reduction — it’s clear that certain factors increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, which is why education is imperative. There is a clear link between cardiovascular factors and Alzheimer’s, including the onset of diabetes and hypertension, in addition to habitual smoking. A balanced diet and regular exercise are also highly recommended. There needs to be more public health campaigns surrounding these modifiable risk factors.
There is no better way to prevent declining health later in life, than to take a proactive approach today. For more information on how you can reduce your risk, please refer to the Alzheimer’s Research Center.