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What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

what is alzheimer's disease

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. It is the most common cause of dementia in older adults starting around the age of 60, but early-onset Alzheimer’s can appear in people in their 30s. Alzheimer’s disease begins slowly and gets worse over time. This Triad Clinical Trials blog article features an overview of Alzheimer’s disease, and we hope you find it helpful and informative.

History of Alzheimer’s disease.

The disease is named after Alois Alzheimer, the German physician who discovered it in 1906. Dr. Alzheimer conducted a brain autopsy of an older woman who had an unusual type of dementia before her death. His autopsy revealed that the woman’s brain had a significant shrinkage and abnormal deposits in and around nerve cells.

Dr. Alzheimer’s findings would pave the way for many decades of groundbreaking dementia research, which continues today. The name “Alzheimer’s disease” was introduced in a 1910 medical research book by a psychiatrist named Emil Kraepelin, a colleague of Dr. Alzheimer’s.

Many vital milestones have helped bring awareness of Alzheimer’s and financial backing to Alzheimer’s research studies. The United States Congress formed the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in 1974, and the Alzheimer’s Association was formed in 1980. Alzheimer’s gained worldwide attention when President Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He made the announcement in 1994.

The FDA approved the first of several drugs to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms in the early 1990s. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was signed into law by President Obama in 2011. Today, physicians, scientists, and researchers worldwide continue their relentless pursuit to develop medications that can prevent, slow, or even cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease by the numbers.

Over 6.2 million people in the United States currently have Alzheimer’s disease, and 7 in 10 adults with Alzheimer’s are aged 75 or older. The number of people with Alzheimer’s will increase as our nation’s aging population grows. That is, unless a monumental medical discovery is made that can prevent or cure Alzheimer’s.

Once a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their quality of life will begin to diminish, but they can still live for a significant number of years. Estimates vary, but people aged 65 and older typically live from four to eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, some people live 10, 15, or even 20 years after being diagnosed. That said, Alzheimer’s disease is ranked as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

The financial impact of Alzheimer’s disease.

The financial impact of Alzheimer’s is significant. Each year in the United States, more than $350 billion is spent on Medicare and Medicaid payments combined. On top of that, Alzheimer’s takes a financial toll on the millions of American families whose loved ones have this debilitating disease. Many families can access public and private resources to help pay for caregivers, cognitive assessments, wellness visits, among others. However, caring for a family member who has Alzheimer’s can put families in a financial burden because they end up paying for most of the much-needed care.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that a family spends an average of $11,000 each year in out-of-pocket healthcare costs for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s. Families with these exorbitant expenses are forced to reduce their spending in other areas, and many end up dipping into their retirement or savings accounts. 

Non-financial impact on families.

Caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s can present families with non-financial concerns. These include working late, leaving early, or taking time off to meet their caregiving responsibilities. Or changing plans at a moment’s notice if their loved one needs prompt care. These are just some of the myriad things that can present family members with health concerns.

Family members caring for loved ones who have Alzheimer’s have shown to have higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and weakened immune systems.

Alzheimer’s treatment options.

While there is currently no cure for this debilitating disease, there are treatments that may change the disease’s progression. People with Alzheimer’s have access to drug and non-drug treatments that are custom-tailored based on their individual needs and situation. These options can help them manage their Alzheimer’s symptoms to have a better quality of life. In addition, these treatment options can help family members cope with their loved ones’ Alzheimer’s symptoms. Here at Triad Clinical Trials, we are doing our part by conducting Alzheimer’s research studies to help advance Alzheimer’s treatment.

The content and/or opinions voiced in this Triad Clinical Trials blog post are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific healthcare advice or recommendations for any individual.