One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or dementia

Staff Report

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures report released March 19, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia in the United States.

The new report shows that while deaths from other major diseases such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS and stroke continue to experience significant declines, Alzheimer’s deaths continue to rise — increasing 68 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Illinois is home to more than 210,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Nikki Vulgaris, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association-Central Illinois Chapter. “With deaths from this disease continuing to rise, it is clear that urgent, meaningful action is necessary. Our community needs to come together to fight against this disease, particularly as more and more people age into greater risk for developing a disease that today has no cure.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and is the only leading cause of death without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.

Based on 2010 data, Alzheimer’s was reported as the underlying cause of death for 83,494 individuals — individuals who died from Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Facts and Figures reveals that in 2013 an estimated 450,000 people in the United States will die with Alzheimer’s. The true number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s is likely to be somewhere between the officially reported number of those dying from and those dying with Alzheimer’s.

According to Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Facts and Figures, a recent study evaluated the contribution of individual common diseases to death using a nationally representative sample of older adults and found that dementia was the second-largest contributor to death behind heart failure.

Among 70-year-olds with Alzheimer’s disease, 61 percent are expected to die within a decade. Among 70-year-olds without Alzheimer’s, only 30 percent will die within a decade.

Human and financial toll of Alzheimer’s

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 22,500 in the 20-county area served by the Central Illinois Chapter. Without the development of medical breakthroughs, by 2050 the number of people with Alzheimer’s could reach 13.8 million nationally. Previous estimates suggest that number could be high as 16 million.

Alzheimer’s and dementia place an enormous burden on individuals and families. In 2012, more than 15 million caregivers provided more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216 billion. In Illinois, that translates to 584,000 caregivers providing 665 million hours of unpaid care that is valued at $8.202 billion.

Individuals with dementia often require increasing levels of supervision and personal care as the disease progresses. As symptoms exacerbate as the disease progresses, the care required of family members and friends can often result in increased emotional stress and health challenges for caregivers. Because of the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.1 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2012.

The burden on the nation’s health care system and government programs is also enormous. According to Alzheimer’s Association 2013 Facts and Figures, the total payments for health and long-term care services for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will total $203 billion in 2013, the lion’s share of which will be borne by Medicare and Medicaid with combined costs of $142 billion. Despite these staggering figures today, by 2050, total costs will increase 500 percent to $1.2 trillion.

The 2013 health and long-term care services breakdown was as follows: Medicare, $107 billion (53 percent); Medicaid, $35 billion (17 percent); out-of-pocket costs, $34 billion (17 percent); other sources (HMO, private insurance, managed care organizations and uncompensated care), $27 billion (13 percent).

Robert Egge, vice president of public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association, said: “Alzheimer’s disease steals everything — steadily, relentlessly, inevitably. With baby boomers reaching the age of elevated risk, we do not have time to do what we have always done. The National Institutes of Health needs to reset its priorities and focus its resources on the crisis at our doorstep, and Congress must fully fund implementation of the National Alzheimer’s Plan to solve the crisis.”

The Alzheimer’s Association-Central Illinois Chapter offers a variety of educational and support resources for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers — a list of upcoming programs can be found on Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Association has a variety of resources available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including the toll-free Helpline (1-800-272-3900), care consultations and online resources to assist families with the care management of someone living with Alzheimer’s, regardless of geography. ALZConnected (, powered by the Alzheimer’s Association, is a social networking community for people with Alzheimer’s, caregivers and others affected by the disease to share questions and form new connections.

From the March 27-April 2, 2013, issue

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