Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of seniors around the world. Alzheimer’s is a specific form of dementia, a degenerative brain condition that results in loss of memory, confusion, and is ultimately fatal. Alzheimer’s is a very complex disease that seems to affect each patient differently. As such, it is still largely misunderstood, even within the medical and research communities. Alzheimer’s patients often require additional care as the disease progresses, and many families opt for in-home caregivers. B’Zoe Home Caregiving Services is very familiar with the disease and we’ve compiled some lesser-known facts and figures that you may find interesting. 

An estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021.

As of 2021, it’s estimated that roughly 6.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. This number is based on Americans over the age of 65 and includes all races, ethnicities, genders, and locations. While this is only 1.86% of the American population, it’s a staggering number that unfortunately continues to grow. Keep in mind that many additional cases exist but are not diagnosed. The population over 65 is most at risk, but there have also been cases in younger adults.

Two-thirds of Americans over 65 with Alzheimer’s are women.

Of the 6.2 million+ cases of Alzheimer’s in America, two-thirds are female. Biological females are more prone to developing Alzheimer’s than males are. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “there is emerging evidence that suggests there may be unique biological reasons for these differences beyond longevity alone. These biological underpinnings may contribute to the underlying brain changes, progression and symptom manifestation in Alzheimer’s disease.” As of right now, researchers are not sure which genetic factors play a role in the disproportionate cases of the disease in females, but several groups are using funds to dig into the topic further. We hope that breakthroughs will be made in the next few years that help us to better understand the genetic factors that put someone at more risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The pandemic has drastically increased the number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of millions of people around the world. Did you know that it’s also contributed to more Alzheimer’s-related deaths? Dementia in all forms slowly affects the brain causing loss of memory, difficulty completing normal functions, and more. As with any muscle, the more active Alzheimer’s patients keep their brain, the slower the disease tends to worsen. Due to the shutdowns caused by the pandemic, many patients had their daily routines interrupted. Adult daycares shut down, social activities in nursing homes and assisted living facilities stopped, and family members were not able to visit for months. This sudden change of routine combined with the removal of social interactions and meaningful daily activities have sped up the degeneration process in thousands of patients. As things reopen, we feel positive that numbers will once again drop to pre-pandemic levels. Mental enrichment is so important, and COVID took that away from the people who need it most.

Alzheimer’s disease affects the structure of the brain. 

Many people are unfamiliar with the inner workings of Alzheimer’s and can’t truly grasp what patients are going through. The disease physically alters the structure of the brain. Neurons are injured and die throughout the brain, and different areas shrink in size. As the brain atrophies, it becomes harder and harder to complete daily functions because nerves and sensors are dead or “disconnected”, and the physical volume of the brain is lower. This constricts oxygen and blood flow, places stress on areas of the brain that help with different functions, and more. Late-stage dementia and Alzheimer’s patients have such an injured brain that their body “forgets” to swallow and digest food. If you were to look at the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient and compare it to an unaffected brain, you’ll see just how drastic the difference is. 

We are still actively looking for a cure.

The unfortunate news is that Alzheimer’s is proving to be a tough nut to crack. That being said, it’s one of the largest areas of medical research happening today! Medical professionals are constantly studying the disease to try to better under the mechanics, identify risk factors, and slow or halt the process more effectively. There are some drugs on the market for patients with early-stage dementia, but they have proven ineffective for more severe cases. As stated in an article by IFLScience, “The vast majority of drugs designed to slow or reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s target the protein beta-amyloid, whose overproduction is very closely tied to the onset of the disease. This is because it attacks and damages the connections between the brain’s nerve cells (synapses), which can cause memory problems, dementia, and even death. 

What was unknown until now is that during this synapse-destroying process, the nerve cells produce more of the protein beta-amyloid, exacerbating the problem and producing a savage feedback loop where more and more synapses get damaged. The researchers described their discovery in a paper published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.” There may be a drug on researchers’ radar that can break the cycle, and trials are currently taking place. Various organizations and charities bring in millions of dollars each year for Alzheimer’s research, and we know that the much needed breakthrough is just around the corner. 

You likely know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s. It’s a truly terrible disease, but patients can stay happy and comfortable for years with proper care. B’Zoe Home Caregiving Services offers dementia/Alzheimer’s care in-home. Moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility can be stressful for patients, so aging in place is a popular option. If you have a loved one in need of dementia care, contact B’Zoe Home Care at (206) 953-4900. Your senior will be matched with an ideal caregiver who will make a personalized schedule for meeting in-home each week. We would love to help you care for your family, so don’t hesitate to reach out.