March 8, 2012 -- One in seven people with Alzheimer’s disease lives alone.
This is one of the more stark findings from the 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, an annual report released by the Alzheimer’s Association.
The new report also looks at the costs of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. In 2012, this cost will reach $200 billion.
According to the report, about 800,000 people with Alzheimer’s live alone, and as many as 50% of them don’t have an appointed caregiver.
This can happen for many reasons. “People become isolated, lose a spouse, or may choose to live alone in later life," says William Thies, PhD. He is the chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer’s Association.
As a result, their deterioration isn't noticed. These individuals risk a late or missed diagnosis and are also more likely to wander off, fall, and even die compared with people with Alzheimer’s who don’t live alone.
“Alzheimer's has been a public health crisis and is now a public health emergency,” says Richard S. Isaacson, MD. He is a neurologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “These numbers are shocking and these numbers are scary.”
But we are not powerless. He says that prevention should be a key focus. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, listening to music, and being socially engaged can all help lower risk for Alzheimer's and protect the brain, he says.
“By 2050, the entire Medicare budget will be required to care for Alzheimer's patients, leaving nothing for any other diseases,” says Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, in an email. He is the associate director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in New York City.
In South Korea, care of people with dementia is now a mandatory course in the high school curriculum, he says. “We should at least follow the Koreans' lead so that we and our parents have some hope of dignity in our later years.”