The growing threat of Alzheimer’s disease

Stephanie Jackson | Alzheimer’s & Dementia, | December 06, 2016

Alzheimer's disease has become one of the biggest public health crises in the U.S., especially over the past few decades.

According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, more than 50 percent of nursing home residents who used long-term care services were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, and it is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Although these statistics are alarming, they only tell one part of the story when it comes to this condition. The Alzheimer's Association also says that 47 million people are currently living with Alzheimer's or other dementias worldwide, affecting people from all walks of life. 

Alzheimer's at a glance
This disease doesn't just affect those who are afflicted, but it also impacts whole families and communities. Support from caregivers, friends and family members is absolutely crucial for patients who are trying to battle Alzheimer's, so it is important to understand the behaviors and challenges.

Alzheimer's goes through three general stages: all with mild, moderate and severe cognitive decline, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The progression of these stages depends on the person, but the disease can last anywhere from four to 20 years.

Cognitive decline can also afflict individuals in different ways, but some of the more common ones include difficulties communicating during work or social interactions, losing valuable objects, trouble remembering names, speech pattern decline, and the inability to plan or organize daily tasks. Eventually these symptoms can progress into more debilitating symptoms, such as forgetfulness about personal history, personality changes and physical problems as well.

 

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease affects millions of patients and families worldwide.

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease affect millions of patients and families worldwide.

Searching for breakthroughs in Alzheimer's
Breakthroughs in science are also needed now more than ever to stop this disease from progressing. As Forbes recently pointed out, a promising new drug, solanezumab, did not pass late-stage clinical trials with Alzheimer's patients, meaning that many researchers are going back to the drawing board and looking for a more practical approach to conquer the disease.

However, there are some glimmers of hope. Fortunately, many researchers and policymakers have recently made Alzheimer's a priority. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the House Appropriations Committee approved an additional $350 million to go toward Alzheimer's research this past summer after pressure from more than a thousand Alzheimer's advocates who expressed their concerns.

No matter what happens in the future with Alzheimer's, it's clear that a combination of medical innovation and informed policy decisions are needed in order to give families, caregivers and patients the resources they need to meet the immense challenges of this condition moving forward. 

Raising awareness
As Alzheimer's continues to affect more people in the U.S., various awareness efforts have taken place across the country. Many people have joined in Alzheimer's Awareness marches, worn purple during Alzheimer's Awareness Month and shared their stories on social media with hashtags like #ENDALZ or #IGoPurpleFor in order to shine the spotlight on the disease and research efforts. Many celebrities have also shared their support and personal stories about the fight against Alzheimer's, including comedian Seth Rogen, the cast of "The Big Bang Theory," athlete Tony Hawk, musician Grace Potter and fashion expert Nina Garcia.