Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, affects about 5.5 million Americans — a number that’s expected to balloon to 13.8 million by 2050.
As the incidence of people living with the neurodegenerative disease has gone up, the death rate has as well. Between 1999 and 2014, the rate of deaths related to Alzheimer’s in the US increased 55%, to 25.4 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data released Friday from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The majority of deaths happened in nursing homes. And while hospital deaths declined, deaths at home increased from 13.9% in 1999 to 24.9% in 2014.
That has big implications for the paid and unpaid caregivers who take care of Alzheimer’s patients at home.
“Until Alzheimer’s can be prevented, slowed, or stopped, caregiving for persons with advanced Alzheimer’s will remain a demanding task,” the CDC wrote in its report. “An increasing number of Alzheimer’s deaths coupled with an increasing number of patients dying at home suggests that there is an increasing number of caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s.”
The search for an Alzheimer’s treatment hasn’t been going well. There are only four approved drugs that treat symptoms of the disease, and several hopeful treatments have failed key studies in 2017.
Still, more drugs are in late-stage trials that could have an impact on the disease, and researchers are pinning hopes on diagnosing the disease early, before symptoms even show up. If any of those treatments pan out, it could change the way we look at the disease and potentially make these statistics a lot less dire.
Caring for those who have Alzheimer’s, especially in cases where the disease has progressed, can be difficult, especially for family members and other loved ones without formal training. To help navigate care, the CDC recommends education, respite care (temporary care that allows the primary caregiver to take a break), and providing resources to help caregivers create a plan.
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