LIFESTYLE

2014-2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report released

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Farm Forum

Dementia describes a wide array of diseases that impair cognitive function. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Did you know up until the 1970s senility was considered a normal part of aging? Our scientific understanding of dementia has grown by leaps and bounds since that time. Unfortunately, the complexity of the brain, coupled with the slow progression of the disease, makes research a very difficult process.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease (Source: Fact Sheet: Alzheimer’s Association). While that number doesn’t seem large considering there are 309 million Americans, the people and their families living with the disease are devastated. The slow progression of the disease gradually robs a person of their independence and identity.

Costs of dementia

What’s more, tremendous economic costs are associated with dementia. About a quarter million dollars were spent on health care per person with dementia in the past 5 years. An estimated 57% greater cost than any other disease! Beyond the healthcare cost, many people with dementia require the support of family or a loved one.

These caregivers are estimated to provide 17.9 billion hours of unpaid support (care valued at $217.7 billion). Caregivers may find themselves giving up paid work to ensure the needs of their loved one are met. When we consider the long, slow progression of the disease, some people are spending 10 years outside the paid workforce providing care to a loved one with dementia. Their absence from the paid workforce impacts their ability to save and prepare for their future.

Dementia research

A tremendous amount of research is being conducted to unravel this mysterious disease. Progress is being made. For example, a screening tool has been developed and tested through research studies (please note Medicare covers cognitive assessments during Yearly ‘Wellness’ Visits)

If you would like to learn more about current research efforts, I encourage you to view the full report online at http://1.usa.gov/1OWBE4N.

Because of the nature of dementia, research participants are essential to unlocking the secrets of these diseases. I harbor tremendous gratitude to all the people who have volunteered to assist with these studies. Their participation has provided us with the information needed to reduce our risk of developing the disease. We still have not achieved the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

Research participation

Did you know that people with normal cognitive function are also needed for research? The complex nature of the disease requires volunteers to be followed overtime to determine factors (habits, genetics, etc.) that increase or reduce the risk of developing dementia. More than 70,000 volunteers with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, or normal cognition are needed for ongoing clinical trials and studies. Researchers will need to screen at least half a million potential volunteers to reach this goal. Please review the websites below for additional information.

Additional research participation information:

• Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers, http://1.usa.gov/1Kn6L43.

• Alzheimer’s Association: Research Center, http://bit.ly/1Nulobe.