More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Each year 500,000 Americans will die of Alzheimer’s, making it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The personal and societal costs of Alzheimer’s are enormous. Because the disease slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, patients need an extraordinary amount of care. In the United States, unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 17.7 billion hours of care, valued at $220 billion.
Most people with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed at age 65 years or older; however, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process. Although it is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, advanced age alone is not sufficient to cause the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease affects people in different ways, and the disease progresses at different rates. The most common initial symptom is a gradual worsening of the ability to remember new information. Cognitive and functional abilities decline as the disease progresses. In the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, individuals need help with basic activities of daily living.
Women are more likely to have the disease and are more likely to be caregivers. Almost two thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. More than 60 percent of caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are women.
Although Alzheimer’s disease was first identified more than 100 years ago, research into its symptoms, causes, risk factors, and treatment has gained momentum only in the last 30 years. Still, Alzheimer’s is the only one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States that cannot be prevented, slowed, or reversed. Just a handful of medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration that temporarily improve Alzheimer’s symptoms by increasing the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, and the efficacy of these drugs varies from person to person. On the upside, dozens of drugs and therapies are now being studied by researchers worldwide.
The Alzheimer’s Association, founded in 1980 by a group of family caregivers, is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. The Alzheimer’s Association works on global, national, and local levels to enhance care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
As part of the activities of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month, the Alzheimer’s Association is holding the Walk to End Alzheimer’s® in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 9, 2014, at Citizens’ Bank Park. The Walk is the world’s largest event for raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. The annual Walk is held in more than 600 US communities and includes participants of all ages and abilities. The 2014 Run to Remember is also being held from November 21 to 23, 2014 on GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon weekend to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer care, support, and research. The Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter is an official Charity Partner of the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon.
For more information about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s® and the Run to Remember, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.
Contributed by Patricia Walter, Senior Medical Writer/Editor