The impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the current population is difficult to overstate. Already, there are an estimated five million people in the United States suffering from the disease, and this statistic does little to measure the true amount suffering and expense involved – family members and caregivers, too, are burdened. And the problem is just beginning. The number of Alzheimer’s patients will expand exponentially due to what officials at the National Institute on Aging are calling “an aging tsunami.” Widely accepted research has estimated that the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide will grow from the near 36 million current patients to roughly 115 million over the next 35 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that deaths attributable to Alzheimer’s in the year 2010 numbered almost 83,500 in the United States, but a recent study published by the journal Neurology has questioned this number, claiming that it underestimates the real figure by over 400,000.
If the mortality numbers are not staggering enough, there are the financial ones. In a study conducted by the RAND Corporation (with help from other institutions), researchers calculated that, in 2010, the direct cost of treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia was $109 billion. This outranked the costs of treatment for patients with heart disease ($102 billion) and cancer ($77 billion). Many people take it as a matter of course that Alzheimer’s is a serious disease requiring serious attention; they have similar opinions of it as they do of cancer and heart disease.
But the allocation of federal funds does not reflect these opinions. This year, $5.4 billion dollars will be allocated by the federal government for cancer research. This year, $1.2 billion in federal funds will go to researching heart disease. By comparison, research efforts into Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will only receive $666 million.
Tackling the Problem
To be fair, attention has significantly shifted to Alzheimer’s Disease over the last few years. In 2011, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act was signed into law. The Act proposed a national plan to come up with new treatments for the disease, and it beefed up funding for research efforts to the tune of $100 million in 2013. While $100 million (and, of course, $666 million) is no chump change, research into a disease like Alzheimer’s, which is as devastating as it is complicated, must be funded more aggressively.
We must be able to move beyond merely treating affected individuals to preventing the disease among at-risk individuals entirely. More money means more clinical trials and experimentation. More trials bring us closer to the answers we seek, and the sooner we can do that, the more money and lives we’ll save.
For the time being, however, many patients in the care of nursing homes will be there because they have Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as other forms of dementia. And because these patients have a disease that inhibits their ability to tell others when they are abused, they are at tremendous risk for abuse. If you have a loved one in a nursing home whom you suspect to have been abused, you may have a claim. Please feel free to contact an experienced attorney at Levin & Perconti today.