The Coming Costs of Alzheimer'sToday I got an email from the Alzheimer’s Association, with an offer for a downloadable paper titled “Generation Alzheimer’s: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers.” It’s a sobering look at how the aging of the baby boomers (the first of whom turned 65 earlier this month) will come with an extraordinarily high price in human suffering and financial solvency for individuals, families, and our health care system. For example:

  • 1 in 8 Baby Boomers will get Alzheimer’s (1 in 2 of those who survive to be 85)–that’s 10 million people.
  • There is no cure. Every one of them will die with Alzheimer’s or from it, often after a slow and terrifying descent into cognitive collapse.
  • Since 2000, the percentages of deaths from HIV, stroke, heart disease, and common cancers have fallen. But deaths from Alzheimer’s are up 66%.
  • Nearly 11 million Americans care for someone with Alzheimer’s, at tremendous cost to their financial, personal, and emotional stability.
  • In 2010, the U.S. spent $172 billion caring for people with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, that will rise to over a trillion dollars.That’s $1,000,000,000,000.

For these reasons and more, we should all care deeply about national and institutional investment in research that will help us find a cure.

Like so many people, I have a personal reason to care, too. My grandma died of Alzheimer’s, but before it took her life it took her memories, her joie de vivre, her reasons for living. I hope that we will soon discover a way to prevent that from happening to many millions of baby boomers.

If you’d like to read the Alzheimer’s Association booklet, you can sign up to receive it at http://www.alz.org/boomers/.