Lowery said 10 years ago only one or two people would have known someone with Alzheimer’s. Today, almost everyone knows someone affected by the disease either physically or emotionally. Hands went up across the room when Kiwanis members were posed with the same question.
“Alzheimer’s is like a one-two punch,” Lowery explained. “First you receive the diagnosis and then it affects the whole family.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently more than 5 million Americans living with the disease. This means more than 5 million people who suffer from problems with their memory, thinking and behavior. Lowery said one study revealed the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s may more than triple by 2050.
Additional figures revealed 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. The projected cost to care for those affected in 2013 is $203 billion. The Alzheimer’s Association said costs are expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050.
“We are raising money to provide research dollars, but we need our federal government and the National Institute of Health to step up and put more dollars behind the cause, as well,” Lowery said. “... One-hundred-million dollars have been designated for Alzheimer’s research. That sounds like a big number. It is, and we are happy about it, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to what we need and what the other research for diseases receives.”
“It is not that this disease is worse than another disease,” Lowery continued. “It is just we need to put the money behind this disease to stop it.”
Figures released by the Alzheimer’s Association revealed 15.4 million caregivers provided more than 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care in 2012 valued at $216 billion.
An American reportedly develops Alzheimer’s disease every 68 seconds. According to the association, the time will decrease to every 33 seconds by 2050.
“Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States overall and the fifth leading cause of death for those aged 65 or older,” Lowery said. “It is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression.”
She told Kiwanians there are 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or leisure.
- Confusion with time or place.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
- Decreased or poor judgment.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities.
- Changes in mood and personality.
Alzheimer’s is often associated with the elderly, but new statistics show nearly 4 percent of those affected by the disease have early onset. Many with early onset Alzheimer’s are in their 40s and 50s. This means more than 200,000 people with Alzheimer’s fall under the category of early onset.
Lowery reminded Kiwanians the best way to learn about Alzheimer’s is to hear it from a credible source.
“If you’ve seen one person with Alzheimers, you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s,” Lowery said. “Don’t let other people scare you off.”
Kiwanis members were encouraged to take advantage of the services offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. These include information on how to improve brain health, support groups and continued research.
The Southeast Tennessee Regional office for AA is located in Chattanooga. Lowery said a support group has recently been established in Bradley County. More information can be found on services offered in Bradley County by contacting the office at 423-265-3600.
A 24/7 helpline is available at 1-800-272-3900 for anyone to call toll-free with questions related to Alzheimer’s.
“A master’s level trained clinician will answer the phone,” Lowery said. “Christmas Day is actually one of the busiest days because children go to see Mom or Dad and realize changes that have occurred.”
More information on Alzheimer’s can be found at www.alz.org.