Understanding Memory Loss

We’ve all experienced episodes of forgetfulness. We’ve walked into a room and forgotten why we’re there, we’ve misplaced keys or forgotten names – that is all "normal."

But forgetting how to write a check, how to get home from a familiar place or being unable to keep track of dates or the time can be signs of something more serious, like early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. These are diseases of the brain that start slowly – almost imperceptibly – but become more severe and obvious over time, affecting more than memory loss.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, currently there are 5.3 million Americans of all ages living with Alzheimer’s disease, an estimated 5.1 million of the memory-impaired are ages 65 and over, and approximately 200,000 are under the age of 65. Of the 5.1 million seniors, 3.2 million are women and 1.9 million are men.

By 2030, it is projected that 76 million people will be living with the disease. By 2050, the number of those ages 65 and older is projected to triple from 5.1 million to 13.8 million, provided there are no further developments of medical advancements to prevent or cure the disease. Right now, the annual global cost of dementia care is $604 billion per year. It is projected that between 11 and 16 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with memory loss. If left unchecked, the annual price tag for care could reach $20 trillion in our country alone.

It is widely accepted that the entire scientific, technological and political framework for memory care needs to be reassessed in a sensitive and ethical way to better serve residents and families and to help people maximize their quality of life as they move along the path of cognitive aging.

Although the broad view of memory loss is overwhelmingly complex, there are steps we all can take to start making an impact for those living with memory loss. Becoming educated about the progressive nature of the disease, its symptoms and the best possible care techniques available can have great effects on individuals’ quality of life, as well as our community’s awareness of memory loss challenges and the need for accessible, supportive memory care. 

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, visit www.alz.org or www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.