Information coming from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center shows that diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease will nearly triple over the next 40 years, with more than 13.8 million expected to have the disease in the year 2050, states a study published this month in the medical journal Neurology.
“It will place a huge burden on society, disabling more people who develop the disease, challenging their caregivers and straining medical and social safety nets,” said Dr. Jennifer Weuve, assistant professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center. “Our study draws attention to an urgent need for more research, treatments and preventive strategies to reduce this epidemic.”
Not only will this increase in diagnoses affect the country’s health care costs, but it will affect caregivers, as well, notes Sharon Brothers, CEO of the Institute for Professional Care Education.
“Nearly 85 percent of today’s Alzheimer’s patients are being cared for by family members who may not have the resources or training to deal with their loved one’s disease,” Brothers said. “Luckily, there are now excellent resources available to help families through this difficult time.”
For family members or professionals caring for Alzheimer’s patients, Medifecta Healthcare Training offers award-winning resources designed to provide specific training about the disease and how to care compassionately and safely with those who have Alzheimer’s. Resources are available online at Medifecta.com and include a series of DVDs and books that include simple, down-to-earth tips showing caregivers how to cope and what to expect in the caring process.
There is also some good news on the Alzheimer’s front. Research being conducted at the University of Colorado has researchers on the threshold of groundbreaking discoveries that could dramatically improve our understanding, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Huntington Potter is leading the team attacking Alzheimer’s disease on a variety of fronts at the University of Colorado Alzheimer’s Disease Center and Research Institute. New pioneering research has recently found a genetic link between Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome and found that Alzheimer’s patients develop brain cells similar to those in Down syndrome patients, who also get Alzheimer’s.
Potter’s recent work also found a link among people who almost never develop Alzheimer’s — patients with rheumatoid arthritis — whose condition could provide clues about fighting Alzheimer’s. His ongoing clinical trials show the same proteins produced by patients with rheumatoid arthritis in an effort to combat the affliction might also attack Alzheimer’s disease developing in the brain.
Additionally, Potter was the first researcher to show how a specific gene works to be the most important risk factor for Alzheimer’s, other than age. This insight can help develop treatments aimed at preventing the genetic process that leads to Alzheimer’s.
It’s fitting that this research is coming out of Colorado because the state has a particularly fast-growing Alzheimer’s population, with an estimated 124 percent increase expected by 2025, among the highest percentage increases in the United States.