1 in 3 Seniors Dies With Alzheimer's or Other Dementia

Pauline Anderson

March 21, 2013

Alzheimer's disease (AD) kills at a relentless rate, and the absence of a cure and an aging population are contributing to a worsening health care crisis, the new Alzheimer's Association 2013 Facts and Figures Report shows.

According to the report, which is based on 2010 data,1 in 3 seniors in the United States dies with AD or another dementia. Whereas deaths from AD increased 68% between 2000 and 2010, deaths from other major diseases declined. For example, deaths from HIV dropped 42%, stroke by 23%, and heart disease, the leading cause of death, by 16%.

"Unfortunately, today there are no Alzheimer's survivors. If you have Alzheimer's disease, you either die from it or die with it," said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, in a press release. "Urgent, meaningful action is necessary, particularly as more and more people age into greater risk for developing a disease that today has no cure and no way to slow or stop its progression."

AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is the only leading cause of death without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.

The new statistics are clear proof of a growing crisis, the authors say. In 2010, 83,494 Americans died of AD. Among 70-year-olds with AD, 61% are expected to die within a decade, but among 70-year-olds without AD, only 30% will die within a decade. Today, more than 5 million are living with the disease, including an estimated 200,000 under age 65 years.

Toll on Caregivers

The devastation of AD takes a huge toll not only on those with the disease but also on their loved ones and caregivers. In 2012, 15.4 people provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216.4 billion. Among these caregivers are 2.3 million who care for the AD patient "long distance." Most caregivers rate the stress as high or very high, and they incur billions in additional healthcare costs of their own.

In addition, the growing AD crisis could bankrupt the country. In 2013, the direct costs of caring for those with AD will total about $203 billion. Unless something is done, AD will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today's dollars) by 2050, and costs to Medicare and Medicaid will increase over 500%, the report notes.

"The National Institutes of Health needs to reset its priorities and focus its resources on the crisis at our doorstep and Congress must fully fund implementation of the National Alzheimer's Plan to solve the crisis," Robert Egge, vice president of public policy for the Alzheimer's Association, said in the release.

The full report can be viewed here.