Alzheimer’s Disease as a Chronic Illness of Interest


The aging of the American population has led to an increased prevalence of diseases and conditions associated with the old age. Dementia is a common chronic disease that affects the elderly population all over the globe. In the United States, the prevalence of dementia among older adults was 10.5% in 2012 (Hudomiet, Hurd, & Rohwedder, 2018). Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia worldwide, and the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to increase more than twice by 2050 (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2018).

This condition has a noticeable effect on patients’ quality of life because caregivers and medical professionals often fail to meet all of the patients’ needs (Hansen, Hauge, & Bergland, 2017). Meeting psychosocial needs of people will Alzheimer’s disease could have a positive influence on their quality of life and reduce the negative experiences associated with the condition, which is why the condition was chosen as a focus for the project.

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Morbidity and Comorbidity

Alzheimer’s disease is recognized to be among the leading causes of deaths for older adults in the United States. Alzheimer’s disease increases the risk of death before the age of 80, with over 61% of people who were diagnosed not surviving past this age (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018). The overall mortality rate from Alzheimer’s disease was 34 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, but in some states, this figure goes as high as 50.1 (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018).

Another important notion is that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease are not declining as in the case with other chronic conditions. According to Alzheimer’s Association (2018), deaths from Alzheimer’s dementia have increased by 123% between 2000 and 2015, while deaths from certain types of cancer, heart disease, and stroke decreased. This means that the economic burden of the condition and its public health impact needs to be addressed.

Due to old age, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s tend to have other comorbid conditions. These include hypertension, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018). The presence of comorbidities contributes to the functional status of Alzheimer’s disease patients, leading them to experience difficulties in their daily lives (Haaksma et al., 2017). This implies that Alzheimer’s disease and related comorbidities have a profound impact on the life of older adults.

Impact on Population Health

Based on the information presented above, there are three ways in which dementia impacts public health in the United States. First of all, Alzheimer’s disease impacts patients’ daily functioning by impairing cognition and memory (Haaksma et al., 2017). This means that it can facilitate the development of other chronic conditions due to a change in lifestyle. Secondly, people with Alzheimer’s disease require more support and resources from the government and the healthcare sector, leading to an increased financial burden.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2018), Alzheimer’s disease has become the most expensive condition in the U.S., with the annual cost of direct care over $200 billion and increasing. With a limited healthcare budget, this means that the burden of Alzheimer’s disease influences the scope and quality of services provided to people in the U.S., thus impairing public health. Lastly, Alzheimer’s disease contributes to health disparities because it is more likely to occur in Black and Hispanic populations (CDC, 2018). This factor also has a negative influence on population health in the U.S. and should be addressed as part of improvement efforts.

Healthy People 2020

Dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, are among the topics included in Health People 2020 public health agenda. The goal for this illness group is to “reduce the morbidity and costs associated with and maintain or enhance the quality of life for, persons with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease” (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [ODPHP], 2014, para. 1). The initiative acknowledges the profound influence of dementia on the life of patients and public health in general.

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The first objective of the project with regards to Alzheimer’s disease is to “increase the proportion of adults aged 65 years and older with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, or their caregiver, who are aware of the diagnosis” (ODPHP, 2014, para. 2).

The second objective is to “reduce the proportion of preventable hospitalizations in adults aged 65 years and older with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias” (ODPHP, 2014, para. 2). Healthy People 2020 goals and objectives thus focus on reducing the public health burden of Alzheimer’s disease by addressing preventable costs associated with it and improving people’s awareness of the diagnosis. However, it is also essential to focus on the quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s disease by addressing their daily needs.

References

Alzheimer’s Association. (2018). 2018 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Web.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2018). Dementia. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). A public health approach to Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Web.

Haaksma, M. L., Vilela, L. R., Marengoni, A., Calderón-Larrañaga, A., Leoutsakos, J. M. S., Rikkert, M. G. O., & Melis, R. J. (2017). Comorbidity and progression of late onset Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review. PloS One, 12(5), e0177044.

Hansen, A., Hauge, S., & Bergland, Å. (2017). Meeting psychosocial needs for persons with dementia in home care services–A qualitative study of different perceptions and practices among health care providers. BMC Geriatrics, 17(1), 211-220.

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Hudomiet, P., Hurd, M. D., & Rohwedder, S. (2018). Dementia prevalence in the United States in 2000 and 2012: Estimates based on a nationally representative study. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 73(1), S10-S19.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2014). Dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease. Web.

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