Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt Bring New Attention to Aging and Dementia

September 18, 2013

Last year, it was announced that Glen Campbell has Alzheimer’s.  Linda Ronstadt has announced that she has Parkinson’s disease.  Famous names like this bring new focus on the host of diseases we broadly call dementia.  Of all the dementias, the most common form is Alzheimer’s.

In the US, we have waged a war on cancer, smoking, HIV, and obesity.  It’s time to launch a war on Alzheimer’s.

The current “national plan” to address Alzheimer’s is a timid effort funded with less than $500 million.   A report in the New England Journal of Medicine in the spring showed that Alzheimer’s is “the most expensive malady in the U.S.”.  It is costing us more money than heart disease and cancer.   The Alzheimer’s Association estimates it costs three times more to care for someone with Alzheimer’s than for someone without the disease.  Medicaid spends 19 times as much. By 2050, the disease could cost Medicare and Medicaid $1.2 trillion a year.

In the last decade, the percentage of deaths from cancer, HIV and heart disease in the US declined, while deaths of people with Alzheimer’s continue to surge.

The numbers reflect the money spent.  This year, the National Institutes of Health is spending nearly seven times as much on HIV as it is on Alzheimer’s.  This is despite the fact that there are five times as many people with Alzheimer’s as with HIV.

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