The Alzheimer's Association on March 8 released its annual Facts and Figures report, which contends that the U.S. will spend $200 billion in 2012 to care for people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related dementias, $140 billion of which will come from Medicare and Medicaid. The total bill is projected to jump 500 percent to $1.1 trillion by 2050. "The problems posed by Alzheimer's disease are only going to grow as the Baby Boomers age," said Beth Kallmyer, of the Association, which is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

In about 60 pages, the report summarizes the latest national trends for AD, including risk, incidence, prevalence, and mortality, breaking numbers down by state. Roughly 5.4 million Americans (one in eight older people) now live with AD, according to the report. While death rates for other leading diseases (such as heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, stroke, and HIV/AIDS) declined between 2000 and 2008, mortality due to AD rose by two-thirds during the same period.

Sections on costs and caregiving precede a separate special report on people with dementia who live alone. About 800,000 stricken individuals live by themselves, half without an identifiable caregiver. Friends and family who do tend to loved ones with dementia—about 15 million people—provide $210 billion worth of care that is not reimbursed.

"Our scientists have told us that if we put forth $2 billion per year on research—1 percent of what we're spending now on care—we could make significant progress toward finding a cure or a way to slow down the progress of the disease," said Kallmyer. "Our government has to support research."

The report is available online.—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib.

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