Latest Alzheimer’s statistics reveal troubling rise in cases
PROVIDENCE, RI (WLNE) – With over 24,000 Rhode Islanders age 65 or older living with Alzheimer’s and only 33 geriatricians in the state to offer appropriate care, a startling new statistic released by the Alzheimer’s Association is cause for concern: that figure is expected to rise by three thousand in just three years.
“Eventually this disease will be the number one killer in the top ten list,” explains Donna McGowan, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
With a 48.5% need for caregivers to meet that demand of increasing patients, many loved ones are opting to take on that role themselves. In the Ocean State alone, 39,000 caregivers to Alzheimer patients unable to be treated in a facility setting are providing 24/7 support to loved ones to the tune of a cost that would equal $1.063 billion. Of those, 27.4% of caregivers reported living with depression.
“As this disease progresses from moderate to mild to severe, the care becomes 24/7,” says McGowan. “If something happens and they’re wandering down the street, they get sent to the emergency room. If the emergency room doesn’t have a medical record there saying the person has Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia, then they have an assessment and they most likely get put in the psychiatric unit of the emergency room, which is the most expensive part of the hospital units to be put in,” explains McGowan. “It’s the most costliest disease in the country. So if we continue to rise at this rate of cost, it will bankrupt the country.”
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, a local expert believes there is hope – and studies are already underway. Dr. John Sedivy, Director of Brown University’s Center on the Biology of Aging, is currently leading a research effort funded by a $16 million grant by the National Institute of Health to explore the potential cause and treatment of Alzheimer’s. “We’re a little bit further down the road than you might have thought,” says Dr. Sedivy. “There’s a really dramatically heightened interest in research in this area.”
Alongside a team of biologists from New York University and University of Rochester, Dr. Sedivy is focusing in on DNA snippets called retro transposable elements to focus on how their contributions to aging.
“We are now running a trial with one particular H.I.V. drug called Emtircitabine, it’s one of the most widely prescribed H.I.V. drugs today,” explains Dr. Sedivy. That repurposing trial of the popular drug is currently underway locally here in Rhode Island at Butler Hospital, and could help target those retro-transposable elements in a way that could effectively treat the disease.