Dementia is a loss of cognitive functioning, and Alzheimer’s as one of its forms is diagnosed in the majority of cases. The prevalence of this disease among the elderly doubles every five years, while women are at a higher risk. In 2016, 5.2 million older adults (11 percent of this group) in the US had Alzheimer’s, of which 3.3 million were females (“Dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease,” n.d., para. 6). The situation is deteriorated by the fact that the identified population tends to develop comorbid diseases, which increases the need for hospitalizations, additional costs, and care coordination. Aging and the current lack of effective prevention options also point to the need to examine Alzheimer’s in the elderly in detail.
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Alzheimer’s Disease as a Chronic Condition
In every patient, the disease develops differently, yet some common symptoms can be identified. Stress outcomes and age are frequently and mistakenly attributed to the first manifestations of Alzheimer’s. In the majority of cases, this memory disorder is marked by the inability to memorize and recall produce information that was learned recently. Beydoun et al. (2015) report that an a-seven-year period is the average life expectancy of such patients, and three percent of patients are likely to live more than fourteen years. A person may die from pneumonia or other secondary diseases that occur when the state of health deteriorates. If Alzheimer’s disease develops in older age, patients are more likely to die from cardiovascular issues, falls, pneumonia, and other comorbid diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease is called the leading morbidity of the 21st century. The rates of morbidity are likely to increase unless effective measures are implemented. It is estimated that by 2030, the number of those aged 65 and over will approach 16 million people (Alzheimer’s Association, 2016). The adult-onset of dementia is closely associated with a range of comorbid diseases. The main problem is that patients tend to lose their everyday abilities, including dressing, orientation in space, and recognition. The decrease in the coordination of motor skills often leads to failure, and fragile bones of the elderly are easily broken, which often cause death (Banerjee, 2015).
Difficulties with swallowing are likely to promote food inhalation and further pneumonia, which is extremely challenging to treat in this population. Various infections serve as another comorbidity source; for instance, bladder inflammations result from incontinence. It should be stressed that the described conditions may present special difficulty due to the inability of patients to understand the offered treatment and participate in it.
This chronic illness affects not only patients and their families but also healthcare, society, and the economy. Beydoun et al. (2015) state that people with Alzheimer’s disease require constant care and attention from their family members and/or caregivers. The decline in thinking and memory makes bathing, eating, and moving impossibly without assistance. This creates an increased psychological and physical burden on nurses and other specialists working with older adults. In turn, the social impact of this illness refers to caring-related problems with employment, income, and health of those around patients with dementia.
As for the economic burden, the Alzheimer’s Association (2016) estimated that by 2050, $20 trillion would be spent by all stakeholders, including individuals, Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. The presence of one or several comorbid diseases increases care costs due to more complicated management needs. The necessity to engage several specialists in care for one patient requires complex care coordination. Accordingly, the overall health of the nation is likely to decrease due to a lack of resources and financial challenges.
To address multiple negative impacts of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults, the Office for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion developed a specific goal in terms of the Healthy People 2020 initiative. Namely, it is stated that the goal is to lower morbidity along with costs and also support or improve the quality of life of patients diagnosed with this illness (“Dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease,” n.d.).
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According to the first objective, it is necessary to raise the awareness of the elderly with Alzheimer’s or their caregivers. The number of persons who clearly understand the disease’s nature, symptoms, ways to care, and other associated information should increase. The second objective implies a decrease in the number of preventable hospitalizations, which set additional economic and resource issues. Both of the objectives are evidence-based and relevant to the needs of patients and society in general.
To conclude, Alzheimer’s disease in older adults is a serious health problem that affects primarily people aged 65 and over. The comorbid conditions related to this illness include motor skills failure, decrease in recognition, cardiovascular issues, infections, and others. The negative impact on a patient’s family is expressed in the need to continuously care for him or her, helping with everyday activities. It is expected that the number of people with Alzheimer’s will increase, leading to enormous care costs and adverse impacts on the nation’s health. The current officially formulated goal is to reduce morbidity, costs, and preventable hospitalization while improving awareness of patients and their care providers.
Alzheimer’s Association. (2016). 2016 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 12(4), 459-509.
Banerjee, S. (2015). Multimorbidity — Older adults need health care that can count past one. The Lancet, 385(9968), 587-589.
Beydoun, M. A., Beydoun, H. A., Gamaldo, A. A., Rostant, O. S., Dore, G. A., Zonderman, A. B., & Eid, S. M. (2015). Nationwide inpatient prevalence, predictors, and outcomes of Alzheimer’s disease among older adults in the United States, 2002–2012. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 48(2), 361-375.
Dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease. (n.d.). Web.