Early 15 million people in the United States take care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, amounting to 17 billion hours or more than $202 billion in unpaid care, Alzheimer’s experts said on Tuesday.
If these caregivers all lived in one U.S. state, it would be the nation’s fifth largest, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2011 annual report on the disease.
The report illustrates the growing burden of Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal brain-wasting disease that erodes memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to handle daily activities.
Alzheimer’s affects more than 26 million people globally and can stretch on for years, slowly robbing patients of their mind and memories. And there are currently no drugs that can keep the disease from progressing.
“Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just affect those with it. It invades families and the lives of everyone around them,” Harry Johns, president and chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a statement.
The new report shows a 37 percent increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers compared with a year ago, but much of that increase is because the year-ago figure had been based on nine-year-old estimates, Beth Kallmyer of the Alzheimer’s Association said in a telephone interview.