Fatalities from Alzheimer’s disease have climbed intensely in these recent years and fresh government health data shows that more Americans are dying from Alzheimer’s and Dementia at their own home.

Over a 17 year span, between 1999 and 2014, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease climbed almost 55% according to discoveries published this past Thursday in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“We’ve known for some time that the number of Alzheimer’s disease deaths have been going up and that can in some way be attributed to the fact that we have a growing number of aging adults in America. Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” report author Christopher Taylor, an epidemiologist with the CDC.

During that same time Christopher Taylor announced that an increasing percentage of people with the illness died at home instead of dying in medical facilities, which is a major change from the past years.

The majority of Alzheimer’s deaths took place in either a nursing home or assisted living long-term care facility. However, that figure dropped from 67.5% in 1999 to just over 54 % in 2014. Alzheimer’s deaths in hospitals declined from 14.7% to just 6.6 %.

About 1/4 of Alzheimer’s patients lived out their final days at home in 2014, which is up from approximately 13.9 % in 1999.

“Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the late stages is very intense. We believe there is a need for more caregivers and they should be getting more resources for such intense caregiving,” Christopher Taylor said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease today which is a statistic that has been growing over the past decade as the U.S. population ages, said Keith Fargo, who is the director of scientific programs at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“This is a continuation of a trend that’s been going on for quite some time. It didn’t happen in one year, it’s been a steady trend over time, this increase in the death rate. This is not a surprise, but it’s alarming,” Fargo said.

How quick the disease advances fluctuates from person to person. The illness may follow a quick course or progress more slowly over five or more years. For friends and families caring for a patient it can take an enormous emotional and economic toll – the new discoveries reflect an amplified burden on those caregivers, said Fargo.

“For every person with Alzheimer’s disease, there are three unpaid caregivers, usually family members, sometimes friends as well. We know that it’s bad for their own health. We can see that in Medicare data, across the U.S., Alzheimer’s caregivers have $9 billion more in Medicare claims for their own health. It takes a toll on caregiver health,” said Fargo.

Alzheimer’s physician Dr. Paul Wright, who is the chair of neurology at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York said that numerous of his patients come in with family and friends who are helping to care for them.

“When I see my patients, it’s not just them, but their children or grandchildren who have to take off work. Their spouses too. We have to be able to have more of an ability to provide resources to the caretakers – from helping with the distribution of medications, to bathing, to helping them perform activities of daily living. The patients’ spouses are often elderly too and have ailments of their own. They need assistance at home,” Wright said.

Resources could include more education learning services to help caregivers understand the disease and how it advances from minor to severe stages, said Wright, as well as what’s called “respite care,” which is when a professional caregiver stops in to give a full-time caregiver time to rest and recharge.

“This is so mentally fatiguing and emotionally draining and there is a guilt component. If a spouse takes time off to go to a movie or for a walk, the spouse may feel guilty doing that. Respite care allows them to step away from what might be full-time caregiving duties,” said Wright.

The professionals said they would also like to see more federal funding channeled into Alzheimer’s to help support families and also to help research that can discover a cure.

“This is a tidal wave of Alzheimer’s disease that is now upon us. We’ve been saying baby boomers are getting older and we have to be ready. Now it’s here. It’s here. And it’s not going away unless we do something serious about it. Ultimately we want to eradicate this disease. That is possible,” said Fargo, of the Alzheimer’s Association.

He said the country has made pronounced steps in fighting HIV/AIDS and many cancers, but when it comes to Alzheimer’s / dementia, “I think people have a tendency to take a pessimistic view. The way we’re going to eradicate Alzheimer’s disease is through a research commitment, primarily at the federal level.”


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