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More Americans Being Diagnosed with Dementia  

Diagnosis rates of dementia are increasing among Americans. From 2013 to 2017, the rate of new early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s cases increased among individuals age 30 to 64 by 200%, according to the Health of America Report.  

Michigan – as well as parts of the East and South – has some of the higher diagnosis rates of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the country, while western states have lower rates of diagnosis.  

Dementia is not a single condition but a term that describes many types of progressive brain disorders where overall cognition declines, and the individual has problems with memory, communication, language and decision-making to the point where it severely affects their life. It is most common in people over 65 but affects younger people about five percent of the time. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases. 

In 2017, there were 131,000 new cases of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – and the average age of someone living with either condition is 49, according to the Health of America report. The report is a collaboration between Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and Blue Health Intelligence® (BHI®), which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights in healthcare affordability and access to care.  

There are three general stages to Alzheimer’s disease. In the early stage, people may be able to function independently during daily life, but may have difficulties remembering names, coming up with the right words, misplacing something valuable or forgetting something that was just read, for example.  

Middle-stage Alzheimer’s can be the longest and can last for years. As a person’s brain cells are damaged and break down, they can become forgetful, moody, withdrawn, confused and undergo personality changes that make them suspicious and at times delusional. In this stage, the person needs assistance but is still able to participate in daily activities. In late-stage Alzheimer’s, the person needs around-the-clock care. 

Doctors are seeing an increase in early-onset Alzheimer’s – a condition in which there is progressive brain deterioration, memory loss and an inability to independently care for oneself. From 2013 to 2017, the condition grew by 131% – affecting three adults in 10,000.  

This trend emphasizes the need for additional support for individuals with dementia; and many times, the responsibility of caring for them falls on family. The number of American adults providing care to a family member or friend – particularly an adult who is age 50 or older – are increasing. The prevalence of caregiving rose from 16.6% in 2015 to 19.2% in 2020, according to the AARP – and Alzheimer’s and dementia are the third most common reason for care recipients to need help. 

As caregiving can cause strain on caregivers in numerous ways – including mentally and financially – it’s increasingly important to find ways to care for the caregivers.  

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