New report finds deaths and costs caused by Alzheimer’s continue to grow in Alaska

Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 5:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alzheimer’s Association released a report that outlines the challenges faced by families affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia in Alaska. The report provides an in-depth look at prevalence, mortality, costs of care and impact on caregivers when it comes to the disease.

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s continues to grow in Alaska, as well as the number of people who die from it. In 2020, there were 139 deaths in Alaska attributed to the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a problem that will grow along with the state’s aging population. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in Alaska increases, so does the need for health care workers involved in diagnosing, treating and caring for people living with the disease.

Josh Lonn, the Community Board chair with the Alzheimer’s Association of Alaska, states that often, family and friends provide for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients as caregivers.

“There are 8,500 Alzheimer’s patients today in Alaska, 12,000 caregivers,” Lonn said. “That translates to over $400 million in unpaid caregiving today. By 2025 we will be on of the top five markets in the country in terms of that stat growing, so you’ll see over 10,000 Alzheimer’s patients by 2025 and that’s a conservative estimate.”

According to the 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures for Alaska, the prevalence of the disease in the 49th state is estimated to grow 29.4% by 2025, to roughly 11,000 people affected by the disease.

It also continues to be one of the most expensive diseases, costing Alaska taxpayers over $76 million in Medicaid in 2020, according to the report. The report states the availability of direct care workers is expected to decline. The shortage of specialists is a barrier to a timely and accurate diagnosis, and a lack of diagnosis means a delay in treatments, care delivery and supportive services.

Currently, House Bill 308 could move to the Alaska House floor in early April. It would establish a statewide dementia awareness program while communicating the scope and magnitude of dementia in Alaska.

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