Our memory is a big part of what makes us human. One of the biggest fears many people have as they get older is the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s or some other dementia. And it’s not only the impact on memory directly, but on one’s ability to remain independent, to interact with loved ones, and to enjoy even the simple things that give our lives meaning.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in this country. One in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia. Direct costs of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States will top $203 billion this year. And the value of care given by unpaid caregivers is estimated at over another $200 billion each year. Clearly this is a big problem. And it’s getting bigger. For more facts and figures, check this Alzheimer’s Association summary.
But these numbers don’t really touch on the personal cost of dementia. Many of both the patients and family members affected feel like Alzheimer’s steals what should be some of the most meaningful years of one’s life. Family members put careers on hold. Financial savings are wiped out. And the physical and emotional toll of caregiving becomes overwhelming.
Medical science has made some intriguing inroads into the world of brain science and dementia, but there are still no truly effective treatments to cure, delay, or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. We need some scientific breakthroughs to stop the personal and economic cost of this life-altering tragedy.