New study finds one in seven Alzheimer's patients live alone

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POSTED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 8:00am

UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 8:02am

Arthur McCaffery of San Jose, California was diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago. 

He says at first, he was in denial until he realized he had changed. 

"I was forgetting appointments when I was working and I would forget phone calls," McCaffery said. 

McCaffery has no children and no immediate family living nearby. It is a situation a growing number of Alzheimer's patients are finding themselves in. 

A new report released by the Alzheimer's Association shows one in seven people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease lives alone. 

"They're at great risk of falls or injury and they don't always have the ability to follow through with their own medical care," said Elizabeth Edgerly Ph.D. Chief Program Officer with the Alzheimer's Association Northern California. 

The problem is growing because many people are often separated from families that live in other cities and states. 

Sometimes children don't even realize a parent has the disease until it reaches a critical stage when they miss paying bills or going to doctor's appointments or have a fall. 

After his diagnosis McCaffery realized he needed some help with everything from finances to getting to doctor's appointments. 

"I don't have the same capabilities I had three or four years ago," McCaffery added. 

He said he decided to move into an assisted living community to get additional support, but still maintain his freedom. 

As baby boomers age, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease is expected to triple by the year 2050 to 16 million people. The financial to the burden to the nation is significant. 

The Alzheimer's report estimates the nation will pay $200 billion this year alone in health care costs related to Alzheimer's. 

Medicare and Medicaid will pay out $140 billion of that tab. 

The report suggests one reason the cost is so high is that Alzheimer's patients often need hands-on care later in life. 

Their care is also complicated by the fact patients often have more than one serious chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease. 

More facts from the study: 

- 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. 

- one in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's disease. 

- Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. 

- more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care valued at $210 billion for persons with Alzheimer's and other dementias. 

- payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in the United States in 2012. 
 

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