Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Alzheimer's disease effects people in different ways, but the most common symptoms begin with gradually worsening ability to remember new information. As damage spreads, individuals experience other difficulties, such as memory loss that disrupts life, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficult completing tasks at home, work or at leisure, time or place confusion, trouble understanding visual images, changes in mood and personality, poor judgement, misplacing thing and losing the ability to retrace steps and new problems speaking or writing words. As the disease progress, the individual's cognitive and functional ability decline. When an individual with Alzheimer's has difficulty moving, they are more vulnerable to infections, including pneumonia. Alzheimer's Disease is ultimately fatal, and Alzheimer's - related pneumonia is often a contributing factor. The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is advancing age, but it is not a normal part of aging. Advancing aging is not the only risk factor for the disease. The other risk factors are: family history, cardiovascular disease, social engagement and diet, cognitive impairment, and head trauma or injury to the brain. Global 24.3 million people have dementia today, with 4.6 million cases annually. Numbers of people affected will double every twenty years to 81.1 million by 2040. Rates of increase are uniform: numbers in developed countries are forecast to increase by one hundred percent between 2001 and 2040, but by more than three hundred percent in China, India and neighboring countries in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific ( Unknown, 2003 ). More women than men have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias (figure 2). Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women. Of the 5.2 million people over the age of sixty-five with Alzheimer's in the United States, 3.4 million are women and 1.8 million are men ( Alzheimer’s Association, 2012). People with fewer years education appears to be at higher risk for Alzheimer's and other dementias than those with more years of education (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012).
While most people in the United States living with Alzheimer's and other dementia are non-hispanics (figure 1) are proportionately more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias (Alzheimer’s Association, 2012).
The total number of people with Alzheimer's is larger for states with larger population (figure 3), such as California and New York. Between 2000 and 2025 some states and regions across the country are expected to experience double – digit percentage increase in the overall numbers of people with Alzheimer's, due to increase in the proportion of the population over age sixty-five. The increasing numbers of people with Alzheimer's will have a large impact on states' health care systems, not to mention families and caregivers.
As the number of older Americans grows rapidly (figure 4), so too will the number of new and existing cases of Alzheimer's disease.
Without safe and effective treatments and preventatives, a huge population of seniors stands to be robbed by this disease of the enjoyment of their later years. In addition to the burdens placed on patients and their families, insurance programs surely will face overwhelming demands on their services and resources.
The Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) assists individuals