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The high cost of treating Alzheimer's patients

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Updated: 2/07/2013 7:10 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- While baby boomers get older, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s grows.

A study in the journal Neurology estimates nearly 14 million people will have it by 2050.

Experts estimate caring for that many people could cost about $1 trillion.

“Sometimes it was actually fun because she was really excited about meeting me almost daily because she didn't remember me except as a baby,” said Dr. Dylan Wint of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, who speaks of his grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.

While he refers patients for clinical trials, he knows firsthand because he helped care for his grandmother Daisy Mae Wint.

“The fact that grandma didn't recognize us didn't mean she didn't trust us or that she didn't want to know us. It really was that we were really kind of being erased from her brain,” Wint said.

The staggering estimates in the study don’t surprise the center’s director Dr. Jeffrey Cummings.

“…so 10,000 baby boomers per day turn age 65. And Alzheimer’s disease doubles in frequency every five years after the age of 65. So by the age of 85 about half of all individuals are affected,” Cummings said.

He says this is unacceptable and that something as simple as healthy living could make a difference.
“30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times per week. So we think that's the minimum that people should be engaging in and it could be something like very vigorous walking or bicycling. It doesn't have to be something very extravagant at the gym,” Cummings said.

He also said working a crossword puzzle or speaking a second language works your mind.

But once Alzheimer’s sets in, then all you can do is treat it. There are drugs but none stops the deterioration of the brain. But with medical advancement, Cummings has hope.

“We have better means of brain scanning to see who has the disease. Every clinical trial gets us closer to finding effective therapy for Alzheimer’s disease,” Cummings said.

While Cummings looks forward, Wint reflects and says having more contact with his grandmother earlier on may have helped.



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