About Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal, degenerative disease of the brain that slowly diminishes a person’s ability to reason, remember, respond to the environment and carry out the most basic tasks. An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, including 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. In Massachusetts, 120,000 individuals age 65 and older have the disease. There is a 25% increase expected by 2025.

Every 66 seconds another American develops Alzheimer’s disease. By mid-century, it will be every 33 seconds. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death for those 65 and older. One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease. One third of people age 85 and older (32%) have Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly one in three seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s is also the leading cause of disability and poor health or morbidity. Before a person with Alzheimer’s dies, he or she lives through years of morbidity, disability and dependence as the disease progresses. Between 2000 and 2013, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s increased 71%.

In 2015, more than 15 million caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care valued at over $221 billion. In Massachusetts, there are now more than 332,000 unpaid caregivers caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, providing 378,000 hours of unpaid care, valued at $4.6 million. Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women and 34% are age 65 or older.

Fifty-nine percent of caregivers report high levels of stress, while 40% report symptoms of depression. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is physically, emotionally and financially challenging. The demands for day-to-day care, changing family roles and difficult decisions about placement in a care facility can be hard to handle. The demands of caregiving may intensify as people with dementia approach the end of life. In the year before a loved one’s death, 59% of caregivers felt they were on duty 24 hours per day, with 74% somewhat or very concerned about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver.

Specific approaches to improve the health and well-being of dementia caregivers are providing education, helping caregivers manage dementia-related symptoms, improving social supports and providing respite from caregiving duties. Better access to and knowledge of services can help caregivers provide a higher quality of care to loved ones as the disease progresses, helping them to reside in the community for as long as possible. Research states that people with the disease often stay home between six months to 1.5 years longer if the family caregivers receive support, making the work Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services does with families an important part of care.

The mission of Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Service is to provide information, education and support for people with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia — and the families and professionals who care for them.

Learn more by calling (508) 775-5656 or visiting HopeHealthCo.org.

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