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5 Facts About Alzheimer’s You Should Know

Senior woman with Alzheimer's with caregiver

Alzheimer’s disease has been on the rise around the world for many years, and by now it’s common knowledge that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is devastating to an entire family. The effects of the disease on memory loss and cognitive functioning are emotionally difficult to experience, or to see in a loved one. And while Alzheimer’s is becoming more common among older adults, more and more research is being conducted every day, and this is our best hope that a breakthrough in treatment and prevention is on the horizon.

If you have a loved one who’s been diagnosed, here are some helpful facts about Alzheimer’s disease. 

1. Facts and Statistics

  •     More than 6 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. Almost all are older adults, over age 65, which is approximately 11% of Americans over 65. Seventy-two percent of those diagnosed are 75 years of age or older.
  •     Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and is the only leading cause of death with an increasing rate.
  •     Alzheimer’s is the only one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States that has no medical methods of curing or preventing it.
  •     Deaths due to Alzheimer’s have more than doubled over the last 20 years, increasing 145%. 
  •     In 2021, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia will cost America an estimated $355 billion.
  •     More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, adding up to an estimated 15.3 billion hours of care, valued at nearly $260 billion per year.
  •     Almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women, totaling approximately 3.8 million.
  •     Life expectancy varies. Older adults may live as few as three years after developing Alzheimer’s, while younger adults may live for 10 years or more.


Alzheimer’s disease causes more than just memory loss and decreased cognitive functioning, and symptoms of early-stage Alzheimer’s can vary from person to person. 

  •     One common symptom is agitation and mood swings. This can be caused by the damage the disease does to brain cells, and can also be caused by the emotional difficulty of confusion and misunderstanding in early-stage Alzheimer’s. 
  •     Depression is also common among people living with Alzheimer’s. The devastation of the diagnosis and the loss of memory and abilities all contribute. Depression can manifest with problems sleeping, social withdrawal, loss of interest and irritability. 
  •     Loss of balance can also occur. This can lead to falls and injury, further complicating the situation. 
  •     Bladder or bowel problems can also occur. It may be that they no longer recognize the sensation of needing to use the bathroom. Bathroom accidents can be minimized by regular trips to the bathroom even if the person may feel as though they don’t need to go.
  •     Infection is also a risk. As a person’s disease progresses, they may forget to chew or swallow, causing food or liquids to be aspirated. This could lead to pneumonia.
  •     Malnutrition and dehydration can occur in the later stages of the disease. If a patient can no longer recognize feelings of hunger or thirst, they won’t ask for food or fluids. It’s important to monitor how much and how often they eat and drink to keep their needs met.

3. Treatment

Currently there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But facts about Alzheimer’s are not all negative. There are ways of treating Alzheimer’s symptoms that may slow disease progression and help minimize symptoms such as confusion and agitation. A doctor may prescribe medication to  help improve cognitive function or slow decline. 

It’s also common for a doctor to prescribe antidepressant medication, as depression is a common symptom, especially in early-stage Alzheimer’s. 

A primary care doctor will likely recommend more than one specialist to help with diagnosis, disease management, and treating Alzheimer’s. 

  •     A geriatrician, a doctor who focuses on older adults, will be able to decide whether symptoms of forgetfulness are normal for a person over age 65, or whether memory loss and decreased cognitive functioning are signs of early-stage Alzheimer’s, or any of the other types of dementia.
  •     A neurologist can conduct detailed examinations of a patient’s brain by reading CT scans or MRI scans to make a proper diagnosis.
  •     A psychiatrist will focus on a patient’s mental and emotional health needs, prescribing medications to help with mood, and recommending various behaviors and activities that can help a patient be happier day-to-day.
  •     Occupational therapists or physical therapists can help a patient cope with changes in abilities and work to extend physical health and level of independence.

You’ll also benefit by contacting several organizations outside the realm of doctors and hospitals. With instances of Alzheimer’s on the rise, more groups than ever specialize in helping people cope with the disease.

  •     The Alzheimer’s Association is a large, nationwide group that has local chapters in many regions. There’s likely one near you. They’re a great resource for information, references and support. 
  •     The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging also provides extensive services to older adults. The number of Americans over age 65 continues to grow, and so do the services available to them. 
  •     Local senior centers are cropping up in cities and towns all over the country. There’s likely a senior center near you that can offer advice, activities and services.
  •     Alzheimer’s.gov is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and provides free information.
  •     Dementia Friendly America is an organization that builds awareness and empowers communities to support people who are living with any type of dementia and their caregivers. 

4. Caregivers

Alzheimer’s facts include statistics about caregivers. As stated above, over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care to people living with Alzheimer’s. This usually means that spouses and adult children are the people most often called upon to do a great deal of the work involved with Alzheimer’s care.

Statistics from 2020 show that an unpaid caregiver spent an average of just over 26 hours per week providing Alzheimer’s care for a loved one. This translates into a tremendous cost to the caregiver in the form of time off of work, lost wages, out of pocket expenses and career disruptions, as well as emotional difficulty.

Coping with Alzheimer’s disease can be stressful. This is also true for the caregiver. The behavior changes that occur in someone with Alzheimer’s can be challenging for family members. As the disease progresses, and the patient requires more care and attention, caregivers are likely to experience anxiety and depression. The intimacy of a relationship can suffer with memory loss, which can also be deeply traumatic for a family caregiver to experience.

The family caregiver must seek help. And help is out there. The caregiver’s physical health, emotional health and financial health are all important to maintain. It’s important to remember that the patient would want their caregiving family members to remain as healthy and happy as possible. Use the online resources mentioned above and talk with your doctors about any and all services available to you. Seek out support groups. You don’t have to go through it alone.

5. Prevention

The likelihood of any disease or disorder increases with age. And so for people over age 65, it’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Daily moderate exercise within the limits set by a doctor is widely known to be the most effective step anyone can take toward disease prevention.

A healthy diet is also an obvious smart choice to make for fending off disease. Brain and heart-healthy foods are readily available. Educate yourself on what good choices and proper portions look like. 

Keep your mind active with games, puzzles, books and socializing. These activities are shown to “exercise” your mind, and they keep your life fun!

If you have questions about Alzheimer’s facts or memory care at Heritage Senior Living Communities, don’t hesitate to contact us. Even if you want to know about the possibility of eventual memory care, we can show you how our continuous care will provide the best lifestyle at any and every stage of life, even as needs change over time.

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