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Report: 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another dementia

March 19, 2013
by Patricia Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief
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One on three seniors in the United States dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, according to a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association. The 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 2000-2010.

According to the report, 2013 Alzheimer's Disease Facts & 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 after 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.

"Unfortunately, today there are no Alzheimer's survivors. If you have Alzheimer's disease, you either die from it or die with it," said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, in an organization statement. “Urgent, meaningful action is necessary, particularly as more and more people age into greater risk for developing a disease that today has no cure and no way to slow or stop its progression."

Based on 2010 data, Alzheimer's was reported as the underlying cause of death for 83,494 individuals. The report 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 the association.

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.

The burden on the nation's healthcare system and government programs is also enormous. According to the report, 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 are forecast to increase 500 percent to $1.2 trillion.

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