The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, according to the latest Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report. The report is a survey of the most recent research on incidence, mortality, cost of care and impact on caregivers. In addition, a special report focuses on the preparedness of primary care physicians to diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s and other dementias in their practices.
The report is chockful of statistics too numerous to discuss here. We will focus on the top numbers and explain some of the findings about caregivers and primary care physicians. We encourage you to read the entire report at your leisure.
Currently more than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, that number is expected to be 13.8 million. When you do the math, this means that one in 10 people 65 and older has Alzheimer’s, and almost 33% of them are women. Alzheimer’s is now the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 5th leading cause over the age of 65.
These statistics paint a picture of the burden Alzheimer’s places on caregivers, the government and the health care system.
Most of the help and care provided to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias (83%) is provided from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers. This puts an extraordinary burden on caregivers who often report substantial emotional, financial and physician challenges.
How prepared are doctors?
This year, the Alzheimer’s Association embarked on a special study to determine the preparedness of doctors in the community to care for people with dementia. The study illustrates a current and future shortage in specialist care – geriatricians, neurologists, geriatric psychiatrists and neuropsychologists – that places a larger burden on primary care physicians (PCP).
PCPs recognize they are on the front lines of providing care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Yet they report they are not fully prepared for this role. They are hampered by the shortage of specialists and limited education in caring for dementia patients.
The study’s findings have prompted the Alzheimer’s Association to recommend a series of actions to improve the future of Alzheimer’s care. These include:
While PCPs feel a desire to continue to learn more about caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, they face a variety of roadblocks including a lack of training opportunities and the time to take advantage of the ones that do exist. At the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry, it is our hope that solutions can be found to expand the number of geriatric providers and give primary care physicians the tools they need to care for their dementia patients.