Letter: Alzheimer’s article misleading; aging population at risk

I found an article in The Advocate “Study: U.S. Alzheimer’s rate dropping” misleading. The report indicated the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease have decreased and the average age the disease was diagnosed rose. Yes, we are a healthier nation and are living longer, which is a positive factor. We should continue to eat healthier diets and incorporate exercise for both the body and the mind.

However, the sheer number of Americans aging supports the fact that more Americans are developing Alzheimer’s each year. To quote Dr. Jeffery Keller, Ph.D., from Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention, “Today nearly 8,500 people a day turn 65 in the United States and this number will quickly rise in coming years. The CDC predicts that in the year 2056 there will be more people over the age of 65, than under the age of 18, for the first time in American history. We know that aging, itself, is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and the aging of America is going to dramatically increase the number of cases, even if it occurs at a lower percentage in the elderly. Additionally, upward of 60 percent of Alzheimer’s cases are never diagnosed, making it currently one of the most underdiagnosed medical conditions in the elderly. The wave of Alzheimer’s disease is coming; the question is how big a wave.”

Because so many Americans are becoming seniors, the statistics for those developing the disease may have lessened, but the burden on society as a whole is increasing, and family caregivers are overwhelmed with stress. The disease averages an 8- to 10-year span, and medical care costs for Alzheimer’s and other dementias average three times that of the same age group for non-affected patients (2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures). There is still no diagnostic test, effective treatment or cure. We are fortunate in Baton Rouge to have Alzheimer’s Services, an organization that offers education and support programs, including Charlie’s Place, an activity center for those affected by the disease while providing respite time for the caregivers. We will be here to serve the growing numbers affected.

Barbara Auten

Executive director of Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area

Baton Rouge