Searching for a Cure: Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month

06/16/2015 06:26 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2016

Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds. This degenerative brain disease kills nerve cells and tissue in the brain, affecting an individual's ability to remember, think and plan. As the disease advances, the brain shrinks dramatically due to cell death, causing individuals to lose their ability to communicate, recognize family and friends, and care for themselves. Currently, there is no way to prevent, cure, or even slow Alzheimer's, which is why the month of June has been named Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month in an attempt to draw increased attention to the issue as we continue to search for a cure.

According to statistics from the Alzheimer's Association, 47 million people worldwide are living with the Alzheimer's disease, including 5.3 million Americans, 200,000 of whom are under the age of 65. According to statistical forecasts from the Alzheimer's Association, within the next 10 years, 19 states, including Georgia, will see a 40 percent or greater growth in the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's. By 2050, up to 16 million Americans will be diagnosed with this incurable disease.

In addition to the toll the disease takes on the individual suffering from Alzheimer's, the disease exacts a heavy mental, emotional, financial, and often physical toll on caregivers and families. The financial costs of caring for those with Alzheimer's are staggering. In 2015, caring for Alzheimer's and other dementia-related patients in the United States will cost an estimated $226 billion, $153 billion of which will come from Medicare and Medicaid. The amount spent by Medicare represents nearly one in every five dollars of total Medicare spending. An economic model developed by The Lewin Group for the Alzheimer's Association Report, Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer's Disease: How a Treatment By 2025 Saves Lives and Dollars, projects that by 2050, Medicare and Medicaid spending on people with Alzheimer's and other dementias will reach as high as $765 billion. Based on these projections, a total of $20.8 trillion will be spent cumulatively between 2015 and 2050, including $14.3 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funds, on caring for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias.

While there are currently no disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer's, if a treatment became available by 2025 that delayed the onset of Alzheimer's disease by five years, the savings would be seen almost immediately. According to The Lewin Group's economic model, over the first five years after such a treatment's availability, Medicare and Medicaid spending would be lowered by $121 billion. According to the Alzheimer's Association projections, an Alzheimer's treatment that became available in 2025 would mean that in 2050, 5.7 million fewer Americans would be living with Alzheimer's.

As the numbers above make plain, without a change, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's and the costs of care for individuals with Alzheimer's will rise dramatically within the next decade. While the exact causes of Alzheimer's are still unknown, no one is exempt from contracting Alzheimer's disease. But everyone can help to end this epidemic -- especially you.

During the month of June, the Alzheimer's Association asks people around the world to take the Purple Pledge to help fight Alzheimer's disease. You can join the Alzheimer's Association on June 21 and participate in The Longest Day, a sunrise-to-sunset event to honor those facing Alzheimer's with strength, passion and endurance. Find out more information about Alzheimer's and join the fight at

If you are suffering from Alzheimer's disease, or have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, there is a 24 hour telephone support program that offers specialized information about Alzheimer's disease, community resources, emotional support, referrals, and follow-up counseling services. The Helpline Number is 1-800-272-3900.

Together, we can end Alzheimer's disease.