A look at some facts and figures about Alzheimer's disease, the only illness among the top 10 killers of Americans for which there's no cure or even a way to slow disease progression:
HUMAN TOLL: About 5.4 million Americans are suffering with Alzheimer's disease, including 200,000 under age 65. The total is expected to skyrocket to 16 million by 2050. Alzheimer's deaths jumped 66 percent from 2000 to 2008. Worldwide, Alzheimer's accounts for half to three-quarters of the roughly 35 million cases of dementia.
PREVALENCE: One in eight Americans aged 65 or older has Alzheimer's; nearly half those 85 or older have the neurodegenerative disease. Every 68 seconds, another American develops Alzheimer's.
ON THEIR OWN: About 800,000 U.S. Alzheimer's patients, or more than one in seven, live alone, and many don't have a regular caregiver. That puts them at higher risk than other Alzheimer's patients for falls, malnutrition, wandering off unattended, untreated medical conditions and accidental death.
FAMILY BURDEN: Last year, about 15 million family and friends provided more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care – valued at about $210 billion – to people with Alzheimer's and dementia. Many caregivers suffer from depression and high emotional stress, and that physical and emotional toll led to nearly $9 billion in additional health care costs for those caregivers in 2011.
FINANCIAL BURDEN: Direct costs to care for U.S. Alzheimer's patients are estimated at $200 billion this year, including about $140 billion covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Unless treatments to slow, stop or prevent Alzheimer's are developed, care is expected to cost $1.1 trillion, in today's dollars, by 2050.
RELATED COSTS: Most Alzheimer's patients have at least one other serious medical problem, and dementia makes treatment for those conditions more complicated. For example, among seniors with diabetes, it costs Medicare 81 percent more to care for one who also has Alzheimer's.