Koczor: Alzheimer’s, dementia, take huge toll on families, economy

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Joan Koczor
Joan Koczor

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. This year’s theme — “Know Dementia, Know Alzheimer’s” — highlights the importance of support for those diagnosed with the disease and their families.

People unite from all corners of the world to change perceptions and increase public knowledge. The goal is to better arm people, families, communities and governments with information and advice to prepare, adapt and support those who are affected.

An estimated 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, a disease that robs memories before taking lives. Alzheimer’s begins to develop in the brain 20-30 years before diagnosis. Two-thirds of those diagnosed are women — and no one knows why. And two-thirds of Alzheimer’s caregivers are women.

A woman in her 60s is twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the course of her lifetime than breast cancer. After age 60, one in five women will develop Alzheimer’s. By 2060, about 14 million people in the United States — more than the current populations of New York City and Los Angeles combined — will be living with Alzheimer’s, affecting the lives of millions more family members and friends.

Alzheimer’s is currently on track to bankrupt Medicaid, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s “2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” Federal funding for Alzheimer’s research is $3.1 billion a year, less than that of HIV/AIDS ($3.8 billion) and not even half of cancer’s $6.6 billion. More funding is needed for research to find treatments and a cure for this disease, which is estimated to cost taxpayers and families over $1 trillion by 2050. The costs for care far exceed other terminal illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. The average cost of care for a person with dementia over the last five years of life is $287,038.

 

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Board. 

This column was first published in the September edition of InMaricopa magazine.