November National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month

One of the central social, moral and economic questions of our times is how we will address the needs of the unprecedented number of elderly people living in the U.S. and the world. The number of older people has multiplied so much in recent years that half of all the people who have ever lived to the age of 65 are alive today.

But increased longevity has come with an unexpected price. In the United States, 4 million people, the vast majority of whom are older than 65, suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. In the coming decades, as the baby boomers age, experts predict that the number of Alzheimer’s victims in the U.S. will soar to 14 million.

How we cope with the care of Alzheimer’s patients is a perfect example of our lack of an effective system to deal with the chronic, degenerative diseases of aging. Only a fraction of the cost of care for an Alzheimer’s patient is covered by the government or by private insurance companies. The cost of day-to-day, round-the-clock caregiving—inevitable once the illness reaches a certain stage—falls overwhelmingly to families. More than 70 percent of Alzheimer’s patients are cared for in the home by family members, many of whom are elderly and in bad health themselves. Medicare covers only a small range of services, and Medicaid is usually only available when the patient is admitted to a nursing home—a choice that most families don’t want to make.

But the burden of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s far transcends the mere economic cost. Dealing with the devastating symptoms of memory and personality loss take an enormous toll on the both physical and emotional health of the caregiver.

The American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF) believes the ongoing cost of Alzheimer’s disease is too high a price to pay. That’s why AHAF continues to seek a cure through its Alzheimer’s Research program and to provide emergency cash grants to needy caregivers through its Alzheimer’s Family Relief Program.

For more information on AHAF programs or on Alzheimer’s disease, contact Eve Herold, AHAF public education manager, at (301) 948-3244 or through e-mail at

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