June is National Alzheimer's Month

June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight this disease due to its growing prevalence, and share some information I have recently learned through the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects an estimated 5.1 million Americans. It is diagnosed mostly among our aging population. However, it is also possible for younger adults to have the disease, and about 500,000 people experience early onset symptoms.

There are some significant warning signs of this disease to look out for. For example, some of the major symptoms are forgetfulness such as confusion about time or place, struggling to complete daily activities such as getting dressed, trouble finding words, mood swings, and memory loss of recent information.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in Massachusetts, and the CDC tells us that this disease will grow at a rate of 25 percent by 2025. This disease is also one of the most expensive in America, costing the U.S. $259 billion in 2017. In fact, a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will cost Medicaid 23 times more than an average patient. These numbers are shocking. As a legislator, I am concerned for the individuals and families who are suffering and the strain this will have on public funding.

There are several pieces of legislation on the table in Massachusetts that address the prevention and education of this disease. These bills focus on training providers who work with populations most susceptible to Alzheimer’s. Ensuring a clear diagnosis is critical, as it prevents exacerbation of symptoms. Without it, patients run the risk of treatment non-compliance with other health issues such as heart disease and diabetes by not being able to follow proper medication and diet protocol. Sadly, statistics say that only 45 percent of people with Alzheimer’s report being given a proper diagnosis.

To educate yourself on the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, please visit www.alz.org/10signs, or learn how you may keep your brain healthy as you age at www.alz.org/10ways. Being proactive and knowing the signs can help with an early diagnosis.