From Past to Present: Alzheimer's Influence on the Workforce
In 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimer had a patient with an unusual mental illness that ultimately caused her life. Upon autopsy, Dr. Alzheimer found his patient’s brain had developed what we know today to be Alzheimer’s disease: amyloid plaque and tau or tangles. What Dr. Alzheimer did not know is the impact these findings would have on the world’s population.
Eighty-eight years later, the first World Alzheimer’s Day was launched on September 21st, 1994, thanks to Alzheimer’s Disease International.
Today, about 6.7 million people in America are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Let that number sink in. To put that number in perspective, 6.9 million people live in Massachusetts alone.
Of those 6.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease,
- 73% are 75 years of age or older.
- Almost two-thirds are women.
Additionally, as if these numbers weren’t scary enough, race is a factor too:
- Black Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s,
- Hispanics are 1 ½ times as likely to have Alzheimer’s as compared to the older White population.
Lastly, Alzheimer’s disease is fatal – it impacts more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Its mortality rate has surpassed that of heart disease. To put it bluntly, 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
How do all these statistics relate to us – a generation still in the workforce? Well, considering the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, most of us know or have known someone with Alzheimer’s. That person was most likely cared for by a family member, friend, or other unpaid caregiver, since many people do not have the financial means to live in Assisted Living or a Nursing Home with a Memory Care Unit. The demands on these caregivers are high, and usually leave the caregiver with serious emotional trauma and/or financial issues of their own.
As of this year, however, there has been a ray of hope: the FDA recently approved the first drug that has shown that it can actually treat Alzheimer’s disease! While the medication Aduhelm (scientifically known as Aducanumab) is a big leap in the world of Alzheimer’s, we still have not found a cure. This drug can slow the clinical decline Alzheimer’s has on a patient’s brain, but it does not stop the disease in its tracks.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, connect with the Alzheimer’s Association.
About the author: Abby Corsun-Ascher is a Program Manager in the Workforce Training Fund at Commonwealth Corporation. She worked for the Alzheimer’s Association, a nation-wide non-profit organization, for 5.5 years. Abby’s focus was helping those living with Alzheimer’s, their families, and caregivers to make sure they received the help & support they were in search of.