In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s. Today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The Center for Disease Control reports that Hispanic and African Americans in the United States will see the largest increases in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias between 2015 and 2060. Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.
senior-citizens-talking.jpgBy 2060, the number of Alzheimer’s disease cases is predicted to rise to an estimated 14 million people, with minority populations being affected the most.
  • Cases among Hispanics will increase seven times over today’s estimates.
  • Cases among African Americans will increase four times over today’s estimates.

Health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes may account for these differences, as they are more common in the Hispanic and African American populations. Lower levels of education, higher rates of poverty, and greater exposure to adversity and discrimination may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Among all races, women are nearly two times more likely to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease than men. The difference is primarily due to women living longer.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s disease. Someone with the disease may experience one or more of the following signs:
  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
  • Trouble handling money and paying bills.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure.
  • Decreased or poor judgment.
  • Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
  • Changes in mood, personality, or behavior. 

It is important to consult a healthcare provider with concerns about memory loss, thinking skills, or behavioral changes. Some causes for symptoms, such as depression and drug interactions, are reversible. However, they can be serious and should be identified and treated by a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

There are a variety of medical professionals who can assist those with dementia, including speech-language pathologists (SLPs). The Speech Language Institute’s (SLI) certified SLPs can assist individuals with Alzheimer’s from beginning to end stages and also throughout the various levels of its progression. They can help identify strengths and deficits in cognitive, communication, speech, language and swallowing abilities.

Following an evaluation, SLPs create customized treatment plans that help improve quality of life and independence. They also work with caregivers, providing resources and support to overcome the difficulties that people living with Alzheimer’s can experience in their daily lives.

For more information or to schedule an evaluation at SLI, call 215.780.3150.