The Pulse: Nation’s Alzheimer’s cases and demand for caregiving will soar

Alzheimer’s San Diego’s CEO shares health care, societal and financial implications of the disease

Nearly 5. 3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias today – and that number will rise to 16 million by the year 2050. The fatal, neuro-degenerative disease’s long duration, costly care, and the absence of a cure or treatment will have dramatic effects on families, health care systems, as well as financial models in the years to come, says this month’s Pulse podcast guest, Mary Ball who serves as the president and chief executive officer of Alzheimer’s San Diego.

“Family members devote an estimated 17.9 billion hours in unpaid hours to the care of loved ones with Alzheimer’s,” Ball says, noting that the cost of memory care units or even in-home health aides is prohibitive for an illness that lasts 8 to 10 years. “We will need a workforce to manage this epidemic, with nurses, doctors, certified nursing assistants, and others who know the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. We need to build capacity within the community with social workers and home health workers to help families engaged in grueling, 24-hour care.”

San Diego is a hotbed of Alzheimer’s research, and Ball names UC San Diego among a dozen prestigious organizations that are collaborating to generate treatments and cures as well as preventive measures. Both diagnosed patients and healthy, asymptomatic people are being recruited for clinical trials, as researchers pursue the hope that lies in identifying and understanding Alzheimer’s telltale plaques and tangles in the brain.

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