(Extraído de The North Platte Telegraph)
By DIANE WETZEL | Friday, April 1, 2011 4:06 AM CDT
It has been called the "Silver Tsunami": Chronic, age-related health challenges such as Alzheimer's disease that threaten to cripple efforts to control spending on health care.
Medicaid payments for Alzheimer's patients are nine times higher than for those without the disease in those people age 65 and older. Medicaid costs nationwide are at $37 billion and expected to climb nearly 400 percent by 2050.
The 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report release this month by the Alzheimer's Association shows there are 37,000 Nebraskans with the disease. The number of people with the disease and the number of family and friends who care for them is significantly more than previously reported, with as many as 77,632 Nebraskans serving as caregivers for Alzheimer's patients in 2010. Last year those caregivers provided 88,407,470 hours of unpaid care, valued at $1 billion. According to the report, the number of Nebraskans with Alzheimer's will increase to 44,000 by 2025.
The report illuminates the growing impact of a disease that is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the country, the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression, said Teresa Stitcher Fritz, program director for Alzheimer's Association of the Great Plains.
Most caregivers are family members who take on a tremendous financial, physical and emotional burden to care for a loved one with Alzheimer's.
"Alzheimer's is a significant threat not only for the nation, but also for the people of Nebraska," said Karen Noel, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association Great Plains Chapter, in a press release. "With a rapidly aging population at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's and the number of caregivers growing each year, it will become increasingly important for states to be prepared with dementia-capable support services for people at all stages of the disease."
Medicaid can help
Medicaid covers nursing home care and other long-term services in the community for those who can no longer afford to pay long-term care expenses. Access to Medicaid must remain a priority for states, Noel said.
The annual Fact and Figures report is a comprehensive collection of national statistics and information on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.
"We use the report in our messages to elected officials," Fritz said. "We also send the information to our state senators and the governor because of the tremendous impact on the state Medicaid budget.
Although Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death, the dollars allocated to research as much less than for other top 10 causes, Fritz said.
With states facing tremendous budget challenges, the growing Alzheimer's population will strain them even further, she said.
Mortality data from 2000-08 show that death rates have declined for most major diseases, while deaths from Alzheimer's have increased 66 percent.
The good news, if it can be called that, is that a growing awareness of Alzheimer's has helped with early detection.
"People are coming forward," Fritz said. "We are working hard to provide training for our support group leaders because we know we are meeting the needs of more and more people. That's what we are about, providing support, education and accurate information about Alzheimer's. We want there to be less of a stigma attached to it. It is still something people are ashamed about, neurodegenerative process in the brain, and it's nothing to be ashamed of."