The disease that keeps on taking

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
There is no way to tally the full cost of Alzheimer's disease, a life robbing condition that now claims more than 5 million victims nationwide.

After all, what price do you put on a loved one's inability to remember your name? Or semi-sleepless nights worrying whether Mom or Dad will be OK? Or watching a person lose her ability to perform routine activities? Or missed graduations? Or conversations with grandchildren that are no longer possible?

There really is no way to put these and countless other losses on a ledger sheet.

But what can be put on a ledger sheet is also sobering. A new report from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance finds that Alzheimer's disease is now responsible for a quarter of all claims for nursing home services.

Thank goodness nursing facilities are there to help. Still, each resident with Alzheimer's is a story about loss.

And it's not like relief is in sight. Alzheimer's already ranks as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It also enjoys the unique distinction of being the only condition among the top-10 killers that cannot be prevented, cured or halted.

The best-case scenario is that a cure is found. A growing number of drug companies are racing frantically to do just that. But the goal has been maddeningly elusive. So far, the Food & Drug Administration has approved only two drugs – and they address only the symptoms of the disease.

“Frankly, I believe the future is scary in terms of how a nation will deal with the tens of millions of aging baby boomers who will live into their 80s and 90s the age when Alzheimer's is most likely to occur,” said Jesse Slome, executive director of AALTC.

As ticking time bombs go, this one could cause quite an explosion. Let's hope a cure can be found before that happens. Alzheimer's disease already has cost us far too much.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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