man with a confused and surprised expression, prevent dementia

Americans have been getting mixed messages about Alzheimer’s disease. Two years ago, headlines proclaimed an:

“optimistic trend of declining population dementia risk in high-income countries over the past 25 years.”

The decline in dementia was attributed to aggressive treatment of high blood pressure and cholesterol (Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, March 26, 2015).  But a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that deaths from this dreaded condition are actually on the increase in the U.S. (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 26, 2017).

The Bad News from the CDC:

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and there has been an increase in the proportion of deaths due to this condition. This was an increase of 55 percent between 1999 and 2014.

This was partly explained by the graying of America. U.S. citizens are getting older, which helps to explain why more are suffering from dementia. Let’s face it, the baby boomers are reaching retirement age.

Dementia Victims Dying at Home:

More people with Alzheimer’s disease are dying at home. In 1999, the proportion passing away at home was 13.9%; in 2014, it was 24.9%. According to the CDC, this increase in age-adjusted death rates and the greater proportion dying at home could place a greater burden on caregivers.

Financial considerations might explain why many people with dementia are dying at home. There are some misunderstandings that come as a rude awakening to families and care givers.

Who Pays for Nursing Home Care?

Medicare pays for health care for people over 65. It does not, however, pay for long-term care in a nursing home. That means that people with dementia have to pay out of pocket for long-term care. A decent nursing home capable of treating people with Alzheimer’s disease can cost more than $80,000 a year. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, that’s for a semi-private room. A private room can cost more than $90,000 annually.

Medicaid will pay for nursing home care, but there are strict financial eligibility requirements. People with savings don’t usually qualify until they have spent most of their money. The state will step in then, but usually not before. This often comes as a huge surprise to people who have acted responsibly and saved diligently for retirement. They did not anticipate spending their life savings on nursing home care for a spouse.

In the current fiscal and political climate, states are trying hard to cut back on their Medicaid expenses. With less federal support in the foreseeable future, there is likely to be less money available for people with Alzheimer’s disease. That means families will have to bear the burden.

The Cost of Alzheimer’s Disease Care:

The new report from the CDC points out that :

“total health and long-term care costs for persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States will total $259 billion in 2017…”

That is not sustainable, especially since Medicaid funding will likely be cut dramatically over the next decade. Even if an effective medication were developed, the drug company would likely charge so much it would break the bank.

Hope for the Future?

There is no cure on the horizon. Most of the medications that have been studied over the last decade or two have flamed out. Drug companies have little, if anything, to show for billions spent on Alzheimer’s disease research. Do not expect the pharmaceutical industry to pull a rabbit out of its hat anytime soon when it comes to dementia drugs.

The authors of the new CDC report recommend providing caregiver interventions such as home health care assistance, respite care and education about the condition. Unfortunately, if Medicaid budgets are restricted, such services are unlikely to be expanded anytime soon.

It is estimated that 5.4 million Americans currently suffer from dementia. That number is predicted to grow exponentially over the next few decades. One expert concluded that eventually there will be two kinds of people. Those with Alzheimer’s disease and those caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease. How will our society cope with this burden?

Here is a link to a one-hour interview we did with one of the country’s experts in this field. He does offer some hopeful research about prevention. Listen to the streaming audio or the podcast for free:

Show 994: Learn How One Doctor Is Reversing Alzheimer’s (Archive)

Share your own thoughts about Alzheimer’s disease below in the comment section.

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  1. Eunice

    I want to add some thoughts on the totals that they come with on whom is dying of Alzheimer’s. I have had three people in my family die, having had Alzheimer’s for way over six years each. BUT when they died the death certificates all gave something else for the reason . Yes, they ended up with pneumonia, and infections. Dementia and Alzheimer’s was always listed as secondary. So how do anyone know how many people really die from Alzheimer’s

  2. Marie
    Lumberton NC

    Anticholinergic medications have been researched and links discovered from these type drugs as a precursor to dementia. Cholesterol drugs too (in my opinion) just by how statins work. What we need is less drugs and more natural therapy period for everyone.

  3. Rick

    Vascular dementia is the number three cause of death in Great Britain and the main cause just happens to be medications. When are pharmaceutical companies going to be held accountable it appears never!

  4. Mary Jane

    What is the relationship between dementia and the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain? I can’t help but think that a caved-in chest affects the flow of oxygen, and that it might have an impact on the brain.

  5. eileen

    I was on cholesterol meds for about a year and decided to take myself off because of leg pain and as someone who likes to walk could barely walk around the block instead of my usual morning mile to mile and a half.. I refuse to take cholesterol medications and so far at almost 80 am doing well except for a little normal range forgetfulness. My mother and three siblings were diagnosed with dementia and. They did not get off of cholesterol drugs. I know of several people who appeared to have dementia but improved when taken off of cholesterol drugs. I realize it could also be a combination of drugs. I hope someone is doing some sort of study on this.

  6. Larry M
    Raleigh, NC

    “Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and there has been an increase in the proportion of deaths due to this condition. This was an increase of 55 percent between 1999 and 2014.

    “More people with Alzheimer’s disease are dying at home. In 1999, the proportion passing away at home was 13.9%; in 2014, it was 24.9%. According to the CDC, this increase in age-adjusted death rates and the greater proportion dying at home could place a greater burden on caregivers.”

    Misleading statistics. According to Medical News Today,
    The top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S.:
    Heart disease.
    Cancer (malignant neoplasms)
    Chronic lower respiratory disease.
    Accidents (unintentional injuries)
    Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
    Alzheimer’s disease.
    Influenza and pneumonia.

    If any of causes 1-5 are reduced through better medical care, of course the fraction dying from Alzheimer’s disease will grow. And we know that strides have been made in detecting and caring for some of the other conditions. For example, regular blood pressure monitoring and control as well as better management of INR/PT with new drugs have reduced deaths due to drugs. And more cancers are being cured or managed such that death from other causes occurs. Improved treatment for heart diseases has taken place.

    So if the number of Alzheimer’s cases has remained constant, or even decreased (but less than other causes), statistics as you present them would make it appear that Alzheimer’s is increasing when it is not.

    Stated another way, Alzheimer’s is moving up on the list, not because it is increasing, but because the causes above it are decreasing–and because people are living longer (not dying) from other causes.

  7. Trudy

    Until a couple of years ago, I was very concerned that I would be the first member of my entire family (as far back as I know on both sides) to die with dementia. It was so severe that I was not only groping for words, but I was also unable to remember entire incidents – weekends where guest came to stay at my house for a weekend, and I couldn’t recall that a year later.

    Just over 2 years ago, I learned about the elimination diet and experimented with it. In just a month or so, my brain fog began to lift. Since then, I’ve seen consistent improvement, even helping me to recover my second language to some extent.

    I feel that as a result of my personal experiences, there may be a direct link between what we eat and drink and how our brains function. I was an LD kid, even though there were no labels back in the day, but I always had a difficult time getting information into my brain. Now, I wonder if food intolerances were the culprit.

    If so, that may be a link to the greater picture, that of the nation’s health as a whole. There is very little discussion in the standard medical field around the need to consume less processed “foods”, and I feel that each and every product that has a list of chemical ingredients should also contain a skull and crossbones on the label. Yes, that’s very dramatic, but we’re poisoning our children, and we as adults are also suffering the consequences of inadequate information and a more invasive chemical industry, spreading its tentacles into the food industry.

  8. Debby

    My Dad at the age of 96 of old age. His death certificate says he died of dementia. When we asked about this, they said they were no longer able to but old age as a cause of death. This could account for the increase in dementia numbers

  9. Katy

    I think that statins are responsible for many cases of Alzheimer’s disease. When you lower cholesterol in the body, you lower it in the brain also. The brain needs a lot of cholesterol to work properly.

  10. Carol T
    Macon GA

    Everytime I hear or read about dementia or alzheimers, I can’t help but ask myself “Did we have these two medical issues 20-30-40 years ago? I say ‘issues’ because neither is a disease, but rather the bodies reaction to physiological changes..changes being vehemently brought on by enviromental, diet, and prescription drugs.

    Was talking with a relative just yesterday and she commented on her Mothet snd Step-father, both having decreasing use of both their physical and mental abilities. In thr last 9 years especially. She commented “Well the doctors say it is just part of the getting old process”. Really? I emphatically responded- “No it is not, and it is not normal”.

    For the life of me I don’t understand how many just continue to not question or comprehend the vicious cycle we are witnessing every single day when seeing the ever increasing numbers in dementia and alzheimers. I hope I live to see the day when oharmaceutical drug commercials end here in the united States. Sadly though, that will never become reality. The body was created to be a marvelous machine-able to heal itself and remain vibrant.

    But man came along and created synthetic drugs, gmo’s, and an easy fix for all. All three combined are now one huge volcano; an eruption that is paralyzing millions, yet the solution is to create more drugs that do nothing but delay the decline. The cost of living and surviving from this nightmare is a nightmare all its own.

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