About Alzheimer's - Demographics and Risk Factors, Treatments and Prevention

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The Dark Ages

As a psychology assistant, I first came into contact with clients and patients suffering from Alzheimer's Disease (AD) in the latter 1980s. In this large Midwestern city, Alzheimer's diagnosis and treatment were in the beginning stages and there were no Alzheimer's treatment centers at all. There were no medications and only inconclusive "tests" available -- The only certain diagnosis at the time for the disease was autopsy of the brain.It was a lot of guesswork and passing the buck - mostly to families that were not equipped at all for the task of caregiving.

Patients' families were encouraged - at times, almost bullied - into taking care of these patients at home. This was cruel and ineffective, because it resulted in a high incidence of illness among relatives, because of the stresses and overwork involved. Some family members lost their jobs or quit and enrolled in public assistance to be able to care for these relatives, for whom they did not know what to do. It was one of the most cruel systems I have witnessed. Some Alzheimer's-afflicted patients would wander the streets, lost at night in their nightgowns. Others would become violent, attacking and injuring their caregivers, and set fire to houses, but the health and medical community turned a blind eye toward these problems. The justice system intervened in many cases and jailed some of these patients, sending others to the State Institute for commitment.

Support groups were founded to help the caregivers in the community, when they could get away from their patients. Few other family members stepped up to help and home heathcare was expensive as well as full of aides that had no idea how to cope with Alzheimer's. Finally, some valid testing and medications came into development. Alzheimer's Care Centers were establilshed. In 2010, the diganosis and treatment of the diease is on a professional footing.

Demographics

Alzheimer's generally affects older individuals (the oldest old, over 80 ), although instances as young as 25 have been seen in the case of familial Alzheimer's ("runs in the family"). The risk of the disease increases with increasing age. Individuals with mental retardation also seem more susceptible.

Information from the Mayo Clinic presents some solid demographic statistics about whom this disease affects:

  • Age 65 to 74 - approximately 5% of people have Alzheimer's disease
  • Age 85 and older - Almost 50% have Alzheimer's.
  • Women are more likely than men to suffer this disease, but partially because they live longer. Gender may have nothing else to do with it.
  • Studies show that the lesser-educated are at greater risk for Alzheimer's. The reasons for this are unclear and difficult to pinpoint.

In 2010, physicians can diagnose Alzheimer's before death with 90% accuracy. The other 10% still require brain autopsy.

Overall, the average Alzheimer's patient would most likely be a woman over 80 years old and less educated than other women of the same age.

Since women live longer than men in America overall, the diseases and conditions of aging have often been thought of as older women's diseases. They have sometimes been given less attention and research support in the past than "men's diseases" or those that affect both genders more evenly (like H1N1).

Descriptive Statistics: Alzheimer's in America to 2011

  • We have 5,300,000+ cases of Alzheimer's among a nation of 300,000,000+ people, or about 1.2% of the total population.
  • In the year 2010, we will have nearly 500,000 new cases every year; by 2050, we will incur 1,000,000 new cases per year. Every 70 seconds, another individual in America develops Alzheimer's Disease.
  • We have 9,900,000 unpaid caregivers in 2009 attempting to maintain Alzheimer's patients in the home. Thus, the disease directly and seriously affects over 15,000,000 people or 5% of the population.
  • We incur a cost of $148,000,000,000 every year in medical costs associated with these patients.

NIH Fact Sheet

Source

Medications Work for Some

Cholinesterase Inhibitors

  • Aricept
  • Exelon
  • Razadyne

These drugs improve the numbers of neurotransmitters in the brain, but do not work for everyone - only about 50%. Side effects include include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting that patients sometimes cannot tolerate - they stop taking the drug.

Memantine or Namenda

This drug treats moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's by protecting brain cells from damage caused by glutamate. The drug is sometimes combined with a cholinesterase inhibitor. Memantine side effects include dizziness, agitation, and delusional behavior.

Adjunct Treatments

Adjunct, or alternative medicine treatments that may work for some patients include natural substances like Vitamin E, Ginko, and Huperzine A that is made form a Chinese club moss. Any of these substances may interfere with medications prescribed by a healthcare provider and should be reported to that person for consideration.

All of these medications are helping Alzheimer's patients stay at home for a longer period of time. However, if the family caregivers cannot handle this, they need to report it to their healthcare providers and seek additional help, even hospitalization or placement in an Alzheimer's Care Center or a wing of a retirement community that provides such services.

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Comments and Contributions 24 comments

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Diabetes can affect all body systems, including the brain - and LOW blood sugar also causes memory and concentration problems, et.al. Mayo Clinic does not yet mention Type 3 Diabetes, so when it does, I'll accept that new diagnosis to be valid. Thanks!


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

Some people refer to Alzheimer as "Type 3 Diabetes" (Google that and you will see). Many also believe that inflammation of the brain plays a role in Alzheimer.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

February 3, 2011

Canadian researchers discover that a diabetic medication may impact Alzheimer's as an off-label use.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

AUGUST 9, 2010

WebMD Health News

"Researchers have identified a protein "signature" in the spinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer's disease, which could represent an important advance in its diagnosis.

The signature was found in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 90% of people with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and 72% of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) -- a disorder that often progresses to Alzheimer's."


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

I agree with you, tedl; family, friends, and the healthcare services community can work together. Alzheimer's can destroy the patient and families, but we can change that.


tedl profile image

tedl 6 years ago

It seems sometimes that I am the only person around insisting that a "family type" care is the only solution.

We need to enlist MORE family and friends into the care of the impaired. Otherwise we short the sufferer and we SHORTEN the life of the primary caregiver.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

HaHa, gets me too sometimes -- imagine how hard it is to teach this to some kids in school! Numbers are tricky - 3 sets of zeros = billion but looks like trillion (tri=3), and the 21st century is the 2000s not the 2100s. Got to be an easier way.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Sorry,I must be getting Alzheimer's LOL


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Yes,

1,000 = 1 thousand

1,000,000 = 1 million

1,000,000,000 = 1 billion

$148,000,000,000 = $148 billion, correct figure.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Your ,right patty but,the posting above says -

From the post above -

We incur a cost of $148,000,000,000 every year in medical costs associated with these patients


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

I'm sorry about your uncle.

$148,000,000,000 is 148 billion. 6 zeros = millions, 9 zeros = billions.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Patty I have to say we are being milked monetarily by the pharmacutical and medical industry in general,but,I think 148,000,000,000 which is 148 Trillion.That's more than three times the total gross income of the unitedstates in one year.Maybe it's 148,000,000,000 - 148 billion.

From the post above -

We incur a cost of $148,000,000,000 every year in medical costs associated with these patients.

My,uncle had Alzheimer's disease,before he died,after he had diabetes first.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

I was very angry at the medical system during the late 1980s that, I felt, allowed so much pain. People can certainly put pressure to bear and demand better answers, I think.


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Thank you Patty, for adresing something that is so widespread, yet most people know very little about it. Your hubs are always so helpful


tedl profile image

tedl 6 years ago

i believe that adjunct treatments are our opportunity today.

how many alternatives are there?

Have you heard about MemoryMate?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Dear emailing friends -

"Al" About Alzheimers is a type of play on words, but thanks. :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Hi Don - I think there's some evidence that lifestyle and nutrition can help delay the onset, at least. I also read new research yesterday about additional treatments and dection measures that catch it early.

There is some info that using a computer helps offset senility in older folks as well, so good for that!

Hello to Hello, hello my frind -- I kind of think that Alzheimer's was simply "dimentia" in the USA until the 1980s, much like Attention Deficit was "minimal brain syndrome" in diagnostic manuals previously.

GoGranny - Thanks for your experiences - you know what I'm saying. It was like The Inquisition for the families.

Mike and Creativeone59 - Thanks so much for reading this one. I'll never forget the lack of care back int he day.

Heather - Yes it is sad this happened, and even sadder for the families that became even sicker than the patients. Thanks for commenting.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Hi Don - I think there's some evidence that lifestyle and nutrition can help delay the onset, at least. I also read new research yesterday about additional treatments and dection measures that catch it early.

There is some info that using a computer helps offset senility in older folks as well, so good for that!

Hello to Hello, hello my frind -- I kind of think that Alzheimer's was simply "dimentia" in the USA until the 1980s, much like Attention Deficit was "minimal brain syndrome" in diagnostic manuals previously.

GoGranny - Thanks for your experiences - you know what I'm saying. It was like The Inquisition for the families.

Mike and Creativeone59 - Thanks so much for reading this one. I'll never forget the lack of care back in the day.

Heather - Yes it is sad this happened, and even sadder for the families that became even sicker than the patients. Thanks for commenting.


Heather 6 years ago

Thank you for this article. It is sad that only a few years ago Alzheimer's patients were treated so badly.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

A very informative hub and I amsure everybody is scared of it. Is it only about 20 years since it accurred or is it only dedected since then? If it only occurred since the '80s maybe there is something which have changed in food or lifestyle which causes it. Thank you for your hub.


GoGranny profile image

GoGranny 6 years ago from Southeastern PA

Very nice hub! I have worked 30 years in long term care and have witnessed the 'evolution' of Alzheimer's care from the then "old folks' disease" to the present day research and facts. Thanks for informing the public about such a devastating illness.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

Alzheimer's Disease is a tragic affliction. To be stripped of a lifetime of memories and reduced to depending upon the care of overwhelmed relatives you vaguely remember or don't recall at all must be a frightening existence.

Thank you for a very sobering but important piece of work.


creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 6 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you for your hub on Alzheimer, it help me a lot . Thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59


dusanotes profile image

dusanotes 6 years ago from Windermere, FL

As per usual, Patty, this was a great Hub - very comprehensive. I'm one of those who like to forget there is such a thing as Alzheimer's that might come when I'm 80. In fact I try to think positively that this can't possibly happen to me ...and maybe it won't. Thanks, Don White

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