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Alzheimer's Association 2019 report projects dramatic increase in those with memory concerns

Here are the facts affecting the memories of people in Michigan, Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Having recently released its 2019 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, the Alzheimer’s Association projects a dramatic increase in those with memory issues and outlines the cost of the memory crisis.

Costs associated with the disease in Michigan are astronomical: In 2019, a projected $1.42 billion will be spent by Medicaid: However, these numbers are projected to rise almost 21 percent over the next six years.

The medical system doesn't carry the burden of the disease alone: the report states that 517,000 caregivers in Michigan have provided 589 million hours of unpaid care to loved ones.

But it’s not only costs of the disease that will rise. By 2025 the number of persons in Michigan with Alzheimer’s disease will increase to 220,000 -- a sobering 30,000 person increase. Deaths related to the disease are also expected to rise, especially in Michigan, which has the fifth largest number of Alzheimer’s-related deaths in the country.

Michigan factsheet from the Alzheimer's Association. Photo | Alzheimer's Association

We emailed Jennifer Howard, Executive Director of the Michigan Great Lakes Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association to ask her about the report projections and how people can respond to memory concerns.

A4: According to the Michigan Alzheimer’s factsheet, Michiganders can anticipate an almost 16 % increase in people with the disease over the next 6 years as well as a projected almost 21% increase in Alzheimer’s related costs by Medicaid. These are some pretty scary numbers. Are these numbers higher than estimations in previous years? If so, is there a reason why?

Howard: “There are many risk factors for Alzheimer's disease but the biggest risk factor continues to be age. Approximately 1 in 9 seniors over the age of 65 will have Alzheimer's and approximately 1 in 3 seniors over the age of 85 will have the disease. With the aging of the baby boomers, we are projecting a huge increase in the number of people living with Alzheimer's. In the U.S., about 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's but that number will increase to 14 million by the year 2050 if we do not find an effective treatment, cure, or greater prevention. Alzheimer's disease is the most expensive disease in the U.S., costing $290 billion. The number will rise to $1.1 trillion by the year 2050. These are scary numbers. More research is needed and additional program and services are needed to support those with the disease and the loved ones who are providing care.”

A4: What can people do if they think their loved ones may need cognitive assessments? What are some examples of assessments?

Howard: “If people are concerned about a loved one's memory, they should discuss their concerns with that person and encourage them to talk to their physician. A doctor can do a brief cognitive assessment in the clinic. If there are still concerns, the physician will likely recommend a full diagnostic assessment, which would include memory testing, brain imaging and other basic testing, like bloodwork.”  

Howard said that for those concerned about loved ones but unsure of how to approach the subject, they can call the Alzheimer Association's 24/7 hotline at 800-272-3900. Not only does the association provide advice on approaching the subject, it also offers advice on how to talk to doctors about memory issues.

Consultations with association staff cost nothing and can be done over the phone or at a local office.

A4: Is there a certain age where people should begin to ask their doctors about cognitive assessments?

Howard: “People should start having brief cognitive assessments at the age of 65. Medicare also pays for these assessments during a person's annual wellness visit. Unfortunately, we've found that there is a disconnect between patients and their primary care physicians. Physicians are waiting for patients to complain about memory issues and patients are waiting for physicians to recommend cognitive assessments. Although patients are receiving regular assessments for other health issues like heart disease, only one in seven people reports receiving regular cognitive assessments.”

A4: There seems to be a big question on everyone's mind lately: Is there anything that can be done to potential slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Howard: “Unfortunately, there is currently nothing that can be done to prevent, cure or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's. However, there is much that can be done to reduce the risk of getting dementia. Studies have shown that lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, social interaction and staying mentally active and challenged can help reduce risk. The Alzheimer's Association is currently funding a large study across the U.S. call U.S. Pointer. This is a two-year study looking at how the combination of different healthy lifestyle factors affects older adults at higher risk of dementia. We are also investing in the SPRINT MIND study which examines how blood pressure levels affect risk.”

Read the full 2019 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report here.

More information about Alzheimer's disease, as well as free resources, are available on the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Looking to help out? The University of Michigan is looking for participants to take part in the T2 Project AD study, which will test the effects of a new drug on the disease.

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