BY ANDY MILLER, Georgia Health News
Georgia’s death toll from Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 201 percent since the year 2000, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
More than 3,700 people die from the disease each year.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in Georgia, said officials with the Alzheimer’s Association.
That statistic is expected to worsen.
Currently, there are 140,000 Georgians living with Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to rise to 190,000 by 2025.
“Alzheimer’s and related dementias are a crisis,’’ said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “The numbers are staggering.”
Members of the Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964) are adding to the increases, said state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford).
“Dementia affects so many state agencies,” she stated.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common cause of dementia.
Symptoms of dementia include difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the increase in the death rate can be linked to several factors, such as growing proportion of older adults, fewer deaths from other common causes in old age, increased diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and increased reporting of Alzheimer’s as a cause of death by physicians and others who fill out death certificates.
Alzheimer’s disease is a costly disease.
Nationally, it costs an estimated $275 billion dollars to care for patients with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.
In Georgia, Medicaid costs of caring for people with Alzheimer’s exceed $1 billion a year.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, officials said new initiatives raise hopes for better diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
This year, five “memory assessment centers’’ will open in Georgia. Those facilities will be located in Augusta, Atlanta, Macon, Columbus and Albany.
Kathy Floyd of the Georgia Council on Aging praised the creation of the assessment centers and believes caregivers will benefit by the facilities too.
“We have to be prepared in Georgia to help these families with services,” Floyd said. “The earlier you’re diagnosed, the more you can be helped.”