Alzheimer's Disease: Hitting Georgia Hard
Did you know that the number of Georgians dying from Alzheimer’s disease is growing at a pace that far exceeds the national average? A new study released by the Alzheimer’s Association last month confirms this unsettling fact. The financial burden is also soaring as more people struggle to provide care for loved ones.
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating illness that progresses over time. Early signs include problems with memory, sense of direction, and communication. There is no cure. No medication can prevent or slow down the process of the disease.
In 2017, 4,298 residents of Georgia died from Alzheimer’s disease, up from 1,235 in 2000—a 248 percent increase. Nationally, the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s increased by 145 percent over the same period.
Why does Georgia outpace the national average? Increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and Georgia’s population of older adults has grown faster than the national average over the past two decades, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. An analysis of census data by the ARC showed that Georgia’s 65-and-older population grew by 66 percent between 2000 and 2015, compared to 36 percent nationally. The ARC expects the 65-and-older population to rise from about 13 percent of the Georgia population in 2015 to close to 19 percent in 2040.
The increase in Alzheimer’s deaths comes at a time when the number of deaths from some other illnesses and diseases is on the decline. Deaths from the top cause of death — heart disease — has decreased by about 9 percent since 2000.
Other key findings from the study:
Family and friends are shouldering the caregiving load. More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s disease. In Georgia alone 533,000 caregivers provided 607 million hours of unpaid care, valued at a total cost of $7.6 billion.
The number of people living with the disease will continue to increase. In 2019, the number of Georgia residents with Alzheimer’s is estimated at 150,000, according to the study. By 2025 — just six years from now — 190,000 residents will have the disease.
Alzheimer’s care is costly. Medicaid’s share of the bill for caring for Georgia residents with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to soar to $1.18 billion in 2019. That figure is expected to increase by 33.5 percent over the next six years.
The study underscores the resistance many older adults have for cognitive assessments. Roughly 50 percent of older adults are being assessed for thinking and memory issues, and only 16 percent receive regular cognitive assessments during routine checkups. In contrast, 91 percent of seniors get their blood pressure checked and 83 percent have regular cholesterol screenings.
Early diagnosis can help someone get access to more treatment options to help lessen symptoms, allow someone an opportunity to participate in clinical trials and give families more time to assemble a long-term health care plan, review legal documents and set up a support network.
If someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Kimbrough Law can help you avoid common mistakes that family caregivers make during the Alzheimer's care journey. We can help you find good care without bankrupting you or your loved one. Just give us a call at 706.850.6910.