By 2025, Arizona will see a 43 percent increase in residents with Alzheimer’s disease, officials say, but they fear the state is unprepared to handle the upsurge.
“We do not have the resources needed for this rapid growth of seniors,” said Morgen Hartford, the Alzheimer’s Association’s regional director for Southern Arizona.
About 140,000 Arizona residents are diagnosed with some form of Alzheimer’s, but association officials say that number will grow to over 200,000 people by 2025.
“What we are looking at is nothing short of a phenomenon in demographic change in the Baby Boomer generation,” said Adina Wingate of the Pima Council on Aging.
Arizona would have the largest growth rate in the country for Alzheimer’s, according to the Arizona Alzheimer’s State Plan. And according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), the disease is the fourth-leading cause of death in the state.
There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s, and it cannot be prevented. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a progressive disease that causes mental deterioration of brain cells that affect memory and behavior.
Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are not the only ones affected. “In most cases the individual’s families become their caregivers,” Hartford said.
s there are more than 15 million caregivers in the United States who provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Xiara Rodriguez, a student at the University of Arizona, has had three cases of Alzheimer’s in her family in which her mother and grandmother were the caretakers.
“My mom and grandma would get them ready in the morning, give them their pills, get breakfast ready, bathe them, dress them, make them food, keep the house clean, make sure groceries were stocked, doctors’ appointments made, and finances controlled,” Rodriguez said.
When things get too overwhelming, “sometimes people need more care than their family can provide, and that is a hard decision to make,” Hartford said.
“Everyday I’m consciously thinking of my mom, grandmother, my sister and I growing old and getting Alzheimers,” Rodriguez said.
Not only is the caretaking of individual with Alzheimer’s a tremendous responsibility, but “the financial burden is huge,” Hartford said.
The Medicaid cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s is $364 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As of 2017, Medicare spending per capita is $23,885 in the United States.
“We better do something,” Hartford said. “It is important for our state legislatures to take notice, for members of Congress to federally step up and support the living with Alzheimer disease and those caring for them.”
Megan Gibbs is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at email@example.com