As Alzheimer's month begins, it is important to take stock.
According to McKnight's (citing a NYT op-ed by Justice O'Connor) the number of people who will develop the disease is expected to skyrocket over the next few years. Starting in January, 79 million baby boomers will turn 65 at a rate of one every eight seconds. That is more than four million per year.
If scientists could delay onset of the disease by five years, via better drugs, the United States could keep much fewer Alzheimer's patients from needing nursing homes said in the piece. For every penny the National Institutes of Health spends on Alzheimer's research, Americans spend $3.50 caring for individuals with the disease, for a total of $172 billion a year. At that rate, by 2020, the cumulative total will be $172 billion a year, or $20 trillion by 2050.
Alzheimer's researchers have asked Congress to take action on new legislation that would give $2 billion to scientists working on new drugs to treat and prevent the disease, the editorial states.
The NYT on Sunday had another telling article that detailed through heartbreaking stories the fact that one of the first signs of impending dementia is an inability to understand money and credit. as the article states, it isn't just families who are affected — financial advisers and lawyers say they are finding themselves in a bind too. If new brain scans and other methods show signs that a person is developing dementia, does that mean the patient should be watched, or that there should be limits on his or her abilities to make financial or legal decisions?
I agree with the need for more funding. Other diseases seem to make more "noise" and call attention to themselves. And because many are acute conditions the needs are immediate and the pocketbook is more likely to open. Alzheimer's is sneaking up on us and when it does strike a loved one it becomes crisis situation that affects the health and well-being of everyone around. We need more funding. We need more expert PR and marketing people positioning this disease as the #1 rallying point in the country. And we need as a society to want to learn more about aging so that we can prepare for it. Because we are in denial of it, everything gets exacerbated.