The numbers are already staggering: 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's Disease, 400-thousand of them in New York State alone. Predictions are that nearly 14 million will have the disease by 2050.
One of the risk factors for Alzheimer's is age, and it's a fact that our population is aging: as the number of over-65s goes up, so does the incidence of the brain disease, says Cathy James, who heads up the Central NY chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
Already, one in three seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. And, another disturbing trend: James says 200 thousand people with Alzheimer's are under 65 now, but the number of younger onset cases is also increasing.
Katrina VanFleet, Program Manager at the Alzheimer's Association, says it's recommended to get an actual diagnosis as soon as symptoms, including short term memory loss and forgetfulness occur,. Even though there's no cure or prevention, and progression cannot be stopped, there are some things that can be put in place to make the disease more manageable.
A program called Alztogether, for example, offers outings and events for both the affected person and the caregiver, to keep both involved in the community. There are also support and education programs, also free for participants.
Alzheimer's is especially cruel to women: two thirds of those affected are women, and 60% of caregivers are also women. People can live with Alzheimers for up to 20 years, so for the caregiver it's a long-term commitment. VanFleet says there are care planning services, that also plan out time commitments.