A recent report says that rates of dementia might be going down. This take on things recently appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, and was based on findings from the Framingham Heart Study. It stated that despite the fact that there are so many concerns about dementia and a growing elderly population, the rate of those affected by dementia appears to be on the decline.
Previous estimates had concluded that the number of those affected by dementia would grow as the elderly population grew, and this would mean that by the year 2025, there was a chance that there would be over 7.1 million impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, not to mention the many other types of dementia that exist. Under current health care conditions, there are not enough resources to help all of those that would be affected by this. This doesn’t even take into account the millions of additional family members that would be struggling as a result of having to provide care for a suffering loved one. Things like in-home care and assisted living could take the edge off of these things, but unless something drastic happens over the next ten years, there are not enough services or providers out there to account for the huge increase in cases that are projected. This study says that the problem might not be quite as bad as it appears to be, though.
The Framingham Heart Study has been looking at dementia for over 40 years, and they have found that since 1970, the number of cases of dementia in a given age group have actually gone down proportionately. This is not a definitive study by any means, but it is a positive one nonetheless.
The thing to remember here is that this is not yet a proven thing, and even if it does turn out to be true, there’s not enough evidence gathered yet, and not enough time has passed by to give us hope that this trend will last. However, because of the epidemic that our country is facing when it comes to dementia, and specifically Alzheimer’s disease, this is a very welcome piece of news. If trends do continue, we can expect the number of cases of Alzheimer’s to almost triple by the year 2050. If this were to happen, the health system would be completely overwhelmed. Something like a cure, more geriatric medical specialists, more senior caregivers, or something else that would take the pressure off of the already overburdened senior care community would be needed. If rates were to decline on their own though, either naturally or through an awareness of how activity and exercise can help, this would help eliminate some of the stress that would occur. At the very least, it’s a start in the right direction. More research is needed here, along with a look at populations other than those of European descent, but it is a good piece of news in a sea of negativity right now. This is a cause for optimism when it comes to caring for our elderly loved ones.