The following is an op-ed, written by OJM Group Managing Partner Jason O'Dell, that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on December 31, 2018.
The numbers don’t lie.
Today, approximately 5.7 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, a figure that is expected to nearly triple by the middle of the century. In Greater Cincinnati alone, there are an estimated 50,000 individuals affected by Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only one in the top 10 without an effective treatment or cure.
As we have witnessed through our daily news, Alzheimer’s disease strikes former Supreme Court justices, presidents, entertainers and entrepreneurs alike, knowing no social or economic boundaries.
But the terrible impact of Alzheimer’s extends well beyond the affected individual. An estimated 16 million caregivers struggle daily with the various physical, emotional and financial challenges associated with caring for a loved one with dementia. So much so that family caregivers are often referred to as the “second victim of Alzheimer’s.”
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative, progressive disorder that affects memory, as well as a person’s cognitive, functional and motor skills. To date, there is no cure or prevention, although in the past 25 years great strides have been made in the understanding of the pathogenesis and molecular mechanisms of this confounding and devastating disorder.
Alzheimer’s disease is also our nation’s most expensive disease, costing American society approximately $280 billion annually – taking into account everything from lost employee productivity to Medicaid and Medicare costs. As our “baby boomer” population ages, these costs will continue to grow at an alarming rate.
When President Ronald Reagan first made the proclamation of a National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983, there were no treatments available to those affected by the disease and caregivers had few, if any, sources of support and information.
Much has changed over the past few decades, with significant advances in research, the development of informational and supportive services and significant increases to federal funding of Alzheimer’s research through the National Institutes of Health. Still, we are far from a cure and our current health care system cannot adequately deal with this impending epidemic.
Our nation cannot overlook or forget the toll Alzheimer’s continues to take on our country. For the sake of our current generation, and those to follow, we must increase our efforts in creating a world without Alzheimer’s.
For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association or to access our all of our free programs and services, please call our 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900 or visit alz.org.
Jason O’Dell is chairman of the board of directors of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati.