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Inside E Street

The Alzheimer’s Generation

Is AD the defining disease of the boomer generation?

The defining disease of the boomer generation may well be Alzheimer’s. There are 5.4 million Americans living with the disease and, as boomers age, this number is expected to surge to as high as 16 million by mid-century. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and there is still no proven way to prevent, cure or slow down the condition.

See also: Coping with the devastating effects of Alzheimer's.


Alzheimer's patient Jack attends WinterGrowth, an adult daycare center for those suffering from the disease.

Alzheimer's patient Jack attends WinterGrowth, an adult daycare center for those suffering from the disease.

As the number of Alzheimer’s patients grows, so will the costs to the health care system. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, medical costs related to Alzheimer’s disease hit $183 billion in 2011, which was an $11 billion jump from the previous year. That number is expected to skyrocket to a trillion dollars by 2050 if there are no preventative therapies or drugs to slow the disease’s progress by then.

The National Alzheimer’s Project Act was signed into law in 2011 by President Obama. The law created an advisory council with an urgent mission: help develop a coordinated national plan to fight the disease. The council is made up of prominent Alzheimer’s researchers, health care experts, and representatives from four government agencies, all of whom are tasked with stopping the trajectory of this disease.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that slowly robs people of their memory and their ability to communicate. Alzheimer’s progresses until people are unable to care for themselves and, eventually, the patients’ bodily functions shut down, and they die. The process can take anywhere from five to 20 years.

To discuss the current and future state of this growing epidemic on the boomer generation, Inside E Street’s Lark McCarthy welcomes Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and actor David Hyde Pierce, who has been a board member and spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association for over a decade and whose grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s. The 2012 fact sheet is available if you want to use their figures. They say the cost in 2012 is $200 billion, which would be $17 billion more than in 2011.

You may also like: Using the brain to ward off Alzheimer’s. »

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