The Rise of Early-Onset Dementia and Alzheimer’s

In February of 2020, Blue Cross Blue Shield released a report on the rise of Early-Onset Dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In their release, they discuss the rise and different facets of the disease and what this growth looks like in different demographics. The numbers we will outline below are proof of the need for us to take better care of ourselves and for more memory care in our healthcare system.

The Numbers

From 2013 to 2017, diagnosis rates of Early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increased by 200% in ages 30-64. While this number only reflects the commercially insured population, the number is staggering. The average age of someone impacted by this disease is only 49 years old. In 2017 alone, about 131,000 people between 30 and 64 were diagnosed. While that is a small number in relation to the entirety of the population, it is no small number for those that are affected by the reach of this disease.

Other numbers released in the report included statistics on what people went through medically in the year prior to diagnosis. Of those diagnosed, 86% received some sort of brain imaging within the previous 12 months. Over half of those diagnosed filled an antidepressant prescription.

What Can We Do?

Eating better can help you stave off dementia

Reference our previous blogs about different lifestyle habits you can adopt to help strengthen your cognitive health. We ignore our brains too often and take them for granted. But when they start to slip from us, it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to get it back to full strength. Keeping it at full strength is always our best option.

Second, when we look at these numbers, we think about the number of people who think they are too young to have problems with cognitive decline. The numbers tell us that isn’t nearly as true as we want to believe. There are so many ways to get tested. We’ve talked about Cognivue, an easy, 10-minute evaluation that can be completed and signal signs of cognitive decline. Talking to your doctor about regular checkups, especially if you’ve experienced difficulty with staying focused, sudden changes in behavior, or difficulty with problem solving that you feel you did not used to have. The earlier we detect something wrong, the better off our options will be.

The Importance of Care

If these numbers continue to rise over the next 30 years, the population needing memory care will become unsustainable to the healthcare community. The industry is not currently built to care for the number of people that will need it in the future based on current rates.

This highlights a couple of areas in which we need to be better. First, we need better outreach to help people understand how to take care of themselves. That is one of the pillars of our community at Kemper House Central Ohio. It’s not just about our residents, but the community at large that needs to know what is going on and how to prepare themselves. With more knowledge comes better decision making, especially when it comes to our health.

The second is funding research into better treatments for various forms of dementia. While there is a lot of research out there, we could be doing so much more. Dementia doesn’t get the recognition in our daily lives the way other health hazards do, but that doesn’t keep it from being just as important. We can talk to our representatives about providing better funding for research. We can join fundraising groups that help get the word out and raise money for the types of care we need to have in our future.

These numbers may be scary, but they aren’t the end. We can still fight to care for ourselves and our loved ones in many ways and increase our cognitive health. The only way we are going to do that is together. Kemper House Central Ohio is up for the fight. Are you?