Today marks the end of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which brings to light the progressive and fatal brain disease named for German doctor Alois Alzheimer.
The disorder affects 5.3 million Americans. It was brought to the forefront by the psychiatrist in 1906, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the leading voluntary health organization in care, support and research for the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and progresses with time, the organization says. It destroys brain cells, results in memory loss, and changes thinking and behavior, according to the group’s Web site. Alzheimer’s accounts for 50 percent to 70 percent of dementia cases.
The disease affects more than those it afflicts. The direct and indirect health care bills are staggering, with costs to Medicare, Medicaid and businesses of those suffering with Alzheimer’s and other dementias reaching more than $148 billion annually.
There is no cure for the disease, and according to the association’s Facts and Figures publication, Alzheimer’s patients with one or more added serious medical conditions — from diabetes to coronary heart disease — drive up Medicare and Medicaid costs. Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes and Alzheimer’s or the other related dementias had 64 percent more hospital stays than those with just diabetes. The average costs were $20,655 compared with $12,979, respectively.
Medicare beneficiaries with coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s or other dementias had 42 percent more hospital stays than those with just coronary heart disease. The average costs were $20,780 versus $14,640, respectively.
The report says that every 70 seconds someone in the U.S. develops the disease. That’s one reason why the association’s mission is to eliminate the disease through the advancement of research and to provide and enhance care and support for those with the disease.
For information see alz.org or contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24-hour help line at 800-272-3900.