Alzheimer’s; A Public Health Responsibility
HCA 415: Community & Public Health
Instructor: Erica Terry
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The issues of public and community health are ones that everyone should be concerned with. These broad topics include everything from drinking water to anti-smoking legislation and disease prevention and management. Public and community health issues are handled at the federal, state and local levels and are important to any successful society. One such disease that affects many Americans is Alzheimer’s disease. The purpose of this paper is to define Alzheimer’s disease, provide epidemiology/demographic data, identify resources available to Alzheimer’s patients, discuss some barriers to solving the problem, to identify stakeholders that could be involved with a solution, and make recommendations on ways to solve the problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.” (What is Alzheimer's, 2013) More specifically “Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurologic disease of the brain leading to the irreversible loss of neurons and the loss of intellectual abilities, including memory and reasoning…” (Nordqvist, 2012) Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and can be devastating to families and loved ones. Since its onset occurs later in life family members and loved ones are often called upon to be caregivers. Unfortunately there is no cure at this time, “Although current Alzheimer's treatments cannot stop Alzheimer's from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.” (What is Alzheimer's, 2013) Symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are usually memory related like difficulty remembering newly learned information and slowed thinking. As the disease progresses symptoms include, “disorientation, mood and behavior changes, deepening confusion about events, time and place, unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers, more serious memory loss and behavior changes, and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.” (What is Alzheimer's, 2013) “Alzheimer's is a terminal disease. This means it has no cure and will end in death. However, there are various medications which can help slow down the progression of the disease, and others that can improve the signs and symptoms, such as sleeplessness, wandering, depression, anxiety and agitation.” (Nordqvist, 2012) These medications include: Cholinesterase inhibitors, Memantine, ACE Inhibitors, Stem cells, and Insulin. (Nordqvist, 2012)
According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association “In the United States, an estimated 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including at least 800,000 who live alone.” (Florida Alzheimer's Statistics, 2012) These numbers are certainly significant and point to a problem that is very large in scale. In 2010 in the state of Florida there were approximately 450,000 people over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease which was a 25% increase from the year 2000. (Florida Alzheimer's Statistics, 2012) Alzheimer’s caused over 4,000 deaths in 2008 alone. Another part of the problem is the cost, “The cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated to total $200 billion in 2012 and is projected to increase to $1.1 trillion per year (in today’s dollars) by mid-century.” (Florida Alzheimer's Statistics, 2012) “Seventy percent of AD [Alzheimer’s Disease] patients are cared for at home. Approximately 640,000 caregivers in Florida provide over $8 BILLION of unpaid care to Floridians with Alzheimer’s.” (Corley, 2011) These...
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