More patients also dying at home, with the caregiving burden falling on loved ones

As more baby boomers age, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have jumped 55 percent, and in a quarter of those cases the heavy burden of caregiving has fallen on loved ones, U.S. health officials report.

Alzheimer’s disease is a public health problem that affects not only people with Alzheimer’s disease, but also the people who provide care to them, which is often family members,” said report author Christopher Taylor. He’s an epidemiologist at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The number of Americans over 65 is growing rapidly, and age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, Taylor noted.

One Alzheimer’s expert described the news as dire.

“This is an enormous problem that is only growing, it’s only going to get worse — we are staring at a tsunami of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Fargo added that the 55 percent increase in Alzheimer’s deaths is an “adjusted number” that levels age differences in the population. “When you do the math on the unadjusted numbers, the death rate actually increased 83 percent from 1999 to 2014,” he said.

And, more Alzheimer’s sufferers are dying at home. During the 16 years covered by the study (1999-2014), that number increased from 14 percent to 25 percent, according to the report.

“With more people dying at home, there is an increased need for caregivers, because in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. patients are completely dependent on caregivers. At home, a lot of times it’s done by friends and family,” Taylor said.

This suggests that many of these caregivers would benefit from more support, including education and other services, he said.

The increase in Alzheimer’s deaths is occurring for several reasons, Taylor said. They include an aging population and better diagnosis of the disease. Also, Alzheimer’s is being listed more often on death certificates as a cause of death, he said.

Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal type of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It accounted for nearly 4 percent of all deaths in 2014. Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death among people aged 65 and older, according to the report.

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SOURCE: HealthDay News
Steven Reinberg