Among people age 65 and older, one in 10 has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. That number jumps to nearly one in two for those who are 85 and older.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the average number of diagnosed cases of Alzheimer's disease, which is a progressive and fatal neurological disorder, has been increasing over the years in Hernando County.
Dr. Hany Abskhroun, who is board certified in internal and geriatric medicine with St. Thomas Medical Clinic, said families and caregivers shoulder most of the Alzheimer's burden. Depression and expenses are two major factors involved in the care and treatment of Alzheimer's patients, he said.
He estimates about $100 billion annually comes from the government to support Alzheimer's disease patients. Insurance only partially covers the treatment needed, whereas the patient's family carries the rest of the financial burden, he said.
According to a report on the average number of deaths in Hernando County related to Alzheimer's, bteween 2004 and 2006, the county averaged 63 deaths per year. That number has increased to an average of nearly 74 deaths per year since then.
According to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, 7,355 people in Hernando County have Alzheimer's disease.
Gloria J. T. Smith, president and CEO of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said Alzheimer's disease is one of the top-10 leading causes of death in the United States.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note Alzheimer's has surpassed diabetes as the sixth leading cause of death among American adults. Alzheimer's mortality rates are on the rise, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates, which are continuing to decline.
The National Institute on Aging describes Alzheimer's as the most common form of dementia among older adults. Dementia refers to a decline in cognitive function that interferes with daily life and activities. Alzheimer's starts in a region of the brain that affects recent memory and gradually spreads to other parts of the brain. Treatment can slow the progression of Alzheimer's and help manage its symptoms in some people. Scientific research on Alzheimer's has been progressing, but a cure for Alzheimer's has not yet been found. Damage to the brain can begin as early as 10 to 20 years before any obvious signs of forgetfulness appear. As nerve cells die throughout the brain, affected regions begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimer's, damage is widespread, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly. Abskhroun says the risk factors for Alzheimer's includes age, family history and head injury. Recent research suggests genetics may play a role in the development of Alheimer's. Individuals with Alzheimer's make up less than 13 percent of the Medicare population, yet they account for 34 percent of Medicare spending. "In 2011, the first baby boomers will reach their 65th birthdays," Smith said. "By 2029, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old. This group, totaling an estimated 70 million people aged 65 and older, will have a significant impact on the U.S. health care system." The Alzheimer's Association and the National Institute on Aging estimate 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's. This number has doubled since 1980 and is expected to be as high as 13.4 million by 2050. The total cost of care for Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease will increase, from $172 billion to $1.08 trillion per year in that time frame. These dollar amounts represent the direct costs of care to all payers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and out-of-pocket costs to people with the conditions and their families, and costs to other payers such as private insurance, HMOs and other managed-care organizations, and uncompensated care, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Abskhroun said the disease usually begins after age 60, and risk goes up with age. If dementia is diagnosed under the age 65, he says, brain images should be considered to rule out other causes such as tumors and stroke. He also recommended individuals have blood work done to check thyroid-stimulating hormone, Vitamin B12 and D levels. "It is important to note, however, that Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging," Abskhroun said. "Other diseases can mimic dementia or Alzheimer's in early stages during initial observation, for example, delirium." He describes the difference in delirium as acute onset and could fluctuate over several hours or even days. A change in environment for an older person can trigger delirium and is most commonly misdiagnosed as dementia. "We, as physicians, need to become better at diagnosing the correct condition and spend more time with our patients to do so," Abskhroun said. A third of older individuals seeking medical help in an emergency room are experiencing delirium, he said. From that group of individuals, those age 70 or older, half of them are delirious upon admission, he added. Alzheimer's Research Dr. Mildred Farmer, board certified in internal medicine, fellowship trained in geriatrics, and the medical director for Meridien Research in Hernando County, says the focus of Alzheimer's disease research has been memory and behavioral improvement, as well as disease modification. "All approved treatments thus far only improve memory, they do not change the course of the disease," Farmer said. "New drug development is under way that hopes to slow the course of the disease by affecting the levels of amyloid accumulation in the brain or by preventing ongoing cell death." Beta-amyloid is a fibrous protein molecule that can form clumps called plaque that have been found in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers.
Farmer describes new diagnostic evaluations that are being studied to see if physicians can be more accurate in the diagnostic process as the diagnosis is still based on a clinical impression and not definitive blood, spinal fluid or imaging techniques. That could soon change, as the International Conference on Alzheimer's disease will be held July 10-15 in Honolulu. More information will become available regarding new treatments that are being evaluated in research clinics, according to Farmer. Meridien Research has ongoing research in Alzheimer's disease for a number of studies and will evaluate those concerned about their memory as well as those with diagnosed Alzheimer's disease.// var ranNum = Math.round(Math.random()*1000000); document.write('http://content.yellowbrix.com/images/content/cimage.nsp?ctype=full_story&story_id=146954593&id=thirdage&ip_id=McClatchy-Tribune+Business+News&source_id=Hernando+Today&category=Healthcare&random=' + (ranNum));// ]]>//