Alzheimer’s disease is the third leading cause of death in Washington State
LYNNWOOD, Wash., June 20, 2019 – There are 110,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease in Washington, a state that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, has the third highest Alzheimer’s death rate in the country. Here in Snohomish County, more than 11,000 people are expected to have the disease by 2020, according to the Alzheimer’s State Plan that was released in 2016.
To recognize and honor Lynnwood residents impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, Mayor Smith presented a proclamation to Alzheimer’s Association staff on Monday, June 17, declaring June Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.
“People have a lot of misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so this proclamation goes a long way in raising public awareness” says Carrie McBride, the communications director for the Washington State Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month is a time dedicated to educating the public and increasing people’s understanding of the disease, as well as sharing resources that are available in the community.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a term for memory loss and cognitive changes severe enough to interfere with daily living. It is a progressive and fatal brain disorder and the only leading cause of death in the nation that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
“Many people believe that dementia is a normal part of aging. That simply isn’t true. It changes a person’s memory, thinking and behavior to the point that it impacts their everyday life” says McBride. “It’s common, for instance, to momentarily forget where you parked the car; but if you can’t retrace your steps or aren’t sure where you are or why you’re there, that’s cause for concern.”
Signs and symptoms of the disease vary, but the most common is difficulty remembering recently-learned information. People with concerns about memory loss are encouraged to talk with their doctor.
“It could be a treatable condition, like a vitamin deficiency or depression. If it is dementia, early diagnosis offers a lot of benefits for folks. It gives people the opportunity to plan for the future, participate in clinical trials and access support services for themselves and their family,” says McBride.
On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after a diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years. While symptoms of the disease are mild in the beginning, individuals become increasingly reliant on others for personal care as the disease progresses. In fact, there are approximately 348,000 unpaid family caregivers supporting their loved ones with dementia in Washington State.
The duration of the disease and severity of the symptoms make Alzheimer’s the most expensive disease in America. Last year, the cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia surpassed a quarter of a trillion dollars ($290 billion). About 22% or $63 billion of this cost is out-of-pocket expenses, which fall to individuals and families facing this disease.
“Dementia is devastating, both emotionally and financially,” says McBride. “It’s a long and difficult journey, but we want people to know that they don’t have to go through it alone.”
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a variety of programs for people impacted by the disease, including a 24/7 Helpline (1.800.272.3900) where people can get information, support and referrals to local resources. The Washington State Chapter also offers support groups in communities throughout the state, as well as educational and social engagement programs for people living with the disease and their caregivers.
A coalition of public-private partners in Washington called the Dementia Action Collaborative also offers a “Dementia Road Map” for family caregivers. The comprehensive guide outlines what to expect and how to help your loved one in every stage of the disease.
In honor of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, the Seattle Mariners are hosting an Alzheimer’s Awareness Night on June 21. This coincides with a global initiative called The Longest Day, that raises funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s.
“Every year in June and on the summer solstice, people come together to shine a light on Alzheimer’s,” says McBride. “When we raise awareness, we’re able to help more people and work together to find a cure.”