March 16, 2023 – The number of Alzheimer’s cases in the U.S. is rising along with the country’s aging population, and experts predict the number of patients will double to almost 13 million by 2050.
About 6.7 million Americans -- one in nine over age 65 -- have the disease, according to a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association.
But not enough members of the public and doctors are having critical conversations about dementia and memory loss, “missing a critical first step toward diagnosis and potential treatment,” the report says.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and causes damage to nerve cells in the brain that are essential to thinking, talking, and all human activity.
People are reluctant to have initial conversations with doctors because they’re afraid of being misdiagnosed, learning of a serious problem, or receiving unnecessary treatment, the report says. People said they would be more willing to discuss concerns with a friend than a medical professional.
“Better Alzheimer’s disease care requires conversations about memory at the earliest point of concern and a knowledgeable, accessible care team that includes physician specialists to diagnose, monitor disease progression and treat when appropriate,” said Maria C. Carrillo, the association’s chief science officer in a press release.
“For the first time in nearly two decades, there is a class of treatments emerging to treat early-stage Alzheimer's disease. It's more important than ever for individuals to act quickly if they have memory concerns or experience symptoms," the press release says.
“Everyone, of course, is scared, but if you talk about it, you’ll realize a lot of people are probably in a similar boat, said Hadi Finerty of the Illinois chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association on Chicago’s ABC7 News. She also said experts are predicting a shortage of geriatricians and neurologists. In Illinois in 2021, there were 212 geriatricians, she said, and the state will need more than 500 to serve just 10 percent of the over-65 population in 2050.