Editorial | Myrtle Beach area marks Alzheimers month with workshops, fundraisers
Its probably not surprising that close to a quarter (about 22 percent) of Americans say Alzheimers is the disease they most fear. Its the second most feared disease -- behind only cancer, according to the Alzheimers Association.
The fear is even prevalent among younger adults, with one in 10 of younger Americans (ages 18-34) being worried they some day will have the disease. A survey of public perceptions and awareness of Alzheimers by the Harvard School of Public Health shows most Americans want to know if they have Alzheimers disease ... but half or more of Americans with Alzheimers do not know they have the disease.
Such statistics about a disease that continues to claim victims worldwide and in our area may not be shocking, but September, designated as World Alzheimers Month, is a good time to consider the progress being made and the challenges that remain.
The month is set aside to mark an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge stigma, says Beth Sulkowski of the Alzheimers Associations S.C. chapter.
Worldwide, 35.6 million people were estimated to be living with dementia in 2010, Sulokowski says. The S.C. Alzheimers Disease Registry shows 3,402 people in Horry County and 1,256 in Georgetown County have Alzheimers or related dementia. The state total is 80,000, or, roughly the seating capacity of Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
The state has the 10th highest Alzheimers death rate in America, claiming 1,570 lives in 2010, Since 2000, the number of deaths due to Alzheimers has increased 80 percent. That spike is related to overall increased awareness and better reporting. Such numbers and overall data on Alzheimer perhaps will help in better funding.
Alzheimers is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., yet it is chronically underfunded at the National Institutes of Health. NIH research investments in other conditions, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disease, are paying off, Sulkowski says. This proven approach should be applied to Alzheimers.
There is great momentum in research [worldwide] to better understand and treat Alzheimers. The Alzheimers Association International Conference in July had some 1,800 scientific presentations and was attended by nearly 5,000 experts and researchers from 66 countries.
The monetary cost of Alzheimers already is greater than the cost of heart disease and cancer and according to a report in The New York Times is ... skyrocketing at a rate that rarely occurs with a chronic disease. The cost of caring for over 5 million Americans with Alzheimers is estimated to total $203 billion in 2013, increasing to $1.2 trillion (in todays dollars) by mid-century, according to statistics of the Alzheimers Association.
Early, documented diagnosis leads to better outcomes for individuals with Alzheimers and their caregivers. Let us not forget the caregivers. We have no doubt that the fear of having Alzheimers, especially among younger adults, stems from observing the stress and emotional suffering of caregivers looking after loved ones with Alzheimers.
Our area is lucky to have active access to upcoming workshops aimed at those caregivers, and its lucky to have a population active in events to raise awareness and raise funds for research. For information on such workshops or an upcoming fund-raising event, see the box packaged with this editorial.