New Report Shows One in Three Seniors Dies with Alzheimer's Disease
A new report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association shows that one in three seniors in the United States will die with the disease or another kind of dementia. Advocates say it's time to pay attention to the numbers and do something about the disease that is the sixth leading cause of death in this country.
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Bob and Debbie Johnson of Henrietta have been married for almost 32 years. Bob noticed things weren't quite right a couple of years ago when Debbie went to an appointment.
"She got out there OK. I got back from work at 4 in the afternoon, and she wasn't home yet. I figured she was out with some friends of hers," explained Bob. "An hour later, she called me in a panic. She didn't know where she was."
Shortly after that incident, at age 52, Debbie was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"We went to see the doctor again and he gave us the news. It was like getting hit in the chest with a sledgehammer."
There are more than five million Americans living today with Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Association reports 200,000 of them are like Debbie, under the age of 65.
As you age, the numbers increase dramatically. The Association's most recent report found that one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or some kind dementia.
And while the death rate for other major diseases decreases, Alzheimer's deaths continue to rise.
"This country has done a significant and admirable job in fighting other diseases – think of several decades ago, the war on cancer; think of more recently, the efforts to find if not a cure, prevention of HIV/AIDS. That's not the case with Alzheimer's," said David Midland, Alzheimer's Association President and CEO, Rochester & Finger Lakes Chapter.
Despite being the sixth leading cause of death in this country, advocates say Alzheimer's research is underfunded, and the cost of the disease on Medicare, Medicaid and caregivers is into billions.
Midland said while there needs to be research to find a cure, special attention must also be given to caregivers.
"Specifically, family members in particular, unpaid family members who are caring for people with Alzheimer's," he said. "Their own health is often times at risk."
Bob is Debbie's primary caretaker. This school bus driver splits up his day with work and coming home to watch his wife. Their daughter also helps out.
"It's not really been a bother, because we were married for sickness and health, and this is part of it," Bob said.
Through the Alzheimer's Association, Bob and Debbie go to group meetings for support and have taken part in fundraising walks. They wanted to share their story to let others know this could happen to any family.
They hope maybe a cure is right around the corner. Until then, they live one day at a time, with plans to head out and see America.
"I wasn't planning on doing it at all in the near future, but decided it's time to retire and spend some time with her. We have our camper. There's a lot of the United States to go see."
The Alzheimer's Association also has a number you can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for help. That's 1-800-272-3900.