An annual report on Alzheimer's disease predicts an 18 percent increase in cases in Wisconsin within six years. Medical experts are urging more senior citizens to go through an assessment.
Nationally, the number of people 65 or older with Alzheimer's dementia will rise 27 percent by 2025 to more than 7 million, says the Alzheimer's Association. The Wisconsin increase of 18 percent will leave an estimated 130,000 people in the state with the brain disease.
Earlier studies show some potential declines in dementia in the U.S. over the last 25 years. But Joanne Pike of the Alzheimer's Association says a lot of baby boomers are becoming senior citizens.
"The biggest factor is the aging population. We have the baby boomers, who are about to enter into this age group," Pike says.
She says the increase in seniors makes it more important than ever that they have proactive conversations with their health care provider. Pike suggests a brief cognitive assessment during the annual wellness visit that's covered by Medicare Part B.
"It could be a matter of a provider asking a senior specific questions about changes they are noticing. They could monitor or observe the individual during the medical interaction," Pike says.
She says the doctor may just find the senior is suffering from sleep apnea, depression or other things that can be treated. But if follow-up tests show signs of dementia, or one of its forms early Alzheimer's, there may be diet or lifestyle changes available to keep the older adult from losing more cognitive skills.
Piero Antuono, a Medical College of Wisconsin neurology and biophysics professor, says most of the increase in projected Alzheimer's patients in the state will be in the southeastern counties, because of the higher population concentration here.
But he also worries about the growing number of retirees in northern Wisconsin, who may not have quick access to social services, "such as assisted living, adult day care centers are a little bit harder to reach," Antuono explains.
He warns the new Alzheimer's report shows more younger people may also be indirectly affected, if they wind up as caregivers to parents or other older relatives.
"Financially, as well as other ways of coping with this condition. Such as, women, who are two-thirds the people who provide care, are also the people who go in early retirement or go part-time,"Antuono says.
Antuono warns some of those people who cut back on work to provide care for a senior will also feel a social cost, like they are putting their lives on hold.
The Alzheimer's Association urges Congress to start handing out $100 million approved in December for dementia care. Part of the money over five years is supposed to go to build a stronger support network for caregivers.
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