Alzheimer disease That People recognize the seriously , but they aren’t taking steps to learn about their personal chances of getting the disease or to prepare for it financially, according to a new survey.
“It’s incredibly tough to think about losing your mind or watching a loved one struggle with Alzheimer ’s,” says Michael Smith, MD, WebMD’s chief medical editor. “There is great concern about the impact of this disease, but denial, fear or other unknown factors seem to be preventing us from taking the necessary steps to prepare.”
Still, many people say they are taking actions to stay healthy that might benefit their brains as they age.
An estimated 1 in 9 people over 65 (11%) have Alzheimer ’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As the population ages, however, those numbers are expected to nearly triple by 2050.
“The first baby boomers are turning 70 this year. The risk for Alzheimer’s begins to increase dramatically at the age of 65, and goes up until age 90 or so, maybe even after that,” says Keith Fargo, PhD, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association. “We’re facing a wave of dementia coming our way in the coming decade — and it’s starting now, not 30-40 years from now.”
(Editor’s note: See an infographic of key survey findings here.)
Finances and Prevention
Although the lifetime cost of care for someone with Alzheimer ’s is an estimated $ 174,000, most survey respondents say they aren’t prepared:
71% say their family is not financially equipped to deal with the disease
66% believe Alzheimer ’s could harm their family financially
“It’s really critical for people to plan ahead,” Fargo says. “There are lots of things that people can do now to get ready for possible cognitive decline or dementia, whether that’s due to Alzheimer ’s or something else.”
Those preparations should include educating yourself on the availability of long-term care insurance and those options, as well as the role of Medicare and Medicaid, he says.
The survey also shows a disconnect in how much respondents really want to know about their risk of getting the disease — it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and has no cure. Two-thirds of people say they’d want to know their risk for developing Alzheimer’s later in life. But when presented with a list of ways to do that, a much smaller percentage say they have taken or would take steps to do it.
Those steps include:
Reviewing family history with their doctor (42%)
Reviewing lifestyle factors like diet and exercise with their doctor (40%)
Reviewing medical history with their doctor, including questions about brain trauma (31%)
Taking a genetic test to determine whether they have genes that raise their odds of getting the disease (25%)
Getting a brain scan to spot signs of the disease (22%)
Forty-one percent say they haven’t — or aren’t willing to — take any of the proposed steps.
Another 46% say they aren’t worried about getting Alzheimer ’s in the future, mainly because they take care of their health and also because they can’t do anything about it.
“Most people probably don’t want to think about developing a chronic disease, especially Alzheimer’s, which is universally fatal,” Fargo says. “Once you’re into the dementia part of Alzheimer’s, that’s not going to get better.”
Thirty-four percent of respondents say they’re concerned about getting the disease in the future. Of those, 69% say they’re concerned because they don’t want to become a burden to their family, with 60% concerned because there’s no cure.
Doctors also believe there isn’t much that can be done to avoid the disease, according to. Only 29% of the 403 surveyed say they believe it’s possible to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s, although 77% think it’s possible to slow its progression.
“Certainly, it’s something people should be worried about, especially given the fact that right now there’s nothing that can be done to reverse it,” Fargo says. “Once you have Alzheimer ’s disease … right now, that’s a death sentence. Some of these other things are more manageable. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, all those are survivable, at least in some cases.”
Fargo says people may not realize they can lower their risk. “There are many actions you can take — stop smoking, exercise, and more,” he says. “All of those things are known to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in aging and may prevent or at least delay the onset of Alzheimer ’s. These are actions that people can take, literally in their living rooms, on a daily basis.”
Many people say they are trying to stay physically and mentally healthy — steps that may ultimately help lower their Alzheimer ’s risk.
They say they’re:
Staying mentally or intellectually active (74%)
Eating a healthy diet (64%)
Taking vitamins or supplements (59%)
Staying socially active (54%)
Alzheimer’s has been called a family disease because family members are so often involved in caregiving. For every person with Alzheimer ’s, three people are providing informal care to them, Fargo says. Those most often are family and friends.
In the survey, more than 1 in 5 people (22%) who know someone with Alzheimer ’s also say they’ve taken on caregiving responsibilities, either currently or in the past, for someone with the disease. That was most commonly a parent (41%).
28% say they spent more than 40 hours a week on caregiving duties.
63% say that time came out of their own family or personal time.
21% have worked fewer hours at a job because of caregiving.
More than 1 in 5 have scaled back their working hours to care for the person with Alzheimer’s.
73% have searched for a better or safer living situation for the person they’re caring for.
64% have created or updated wills and assumed power of attorney.
“Caregiving comes at such great personal cost,” Smith says. “It’s like tacking on another part- or full-time job while still having to do everything else you did before. The stress that stems from this has far-reaching effects on both the caregiver’s health and finances.”
How to protect yourself from asbestos
You can find out more on the HSE web pages on asbestos, where there is also a free asbestos web app to help tradespeople identify where they could come into contact with asbestos in their day-to-day work.
HSE has the following advice to workers who may be exposed to asbestos:
Avoid working with asbestos wherever possible. If you’re not sure whether asbestos is present, don’t start work. Your boss or the customer should tell you whether or not asbestos is present.
You can’t work with some kinds of asbestos, as they’re too dangerous. Don’t work if the asbestos material present is a sprayed coating, board, or lagging on pipes and boilers. Only a licensed contractor should work on these.
Where asbestos is present, you can only continue to work if you’ve had asbestos training and you’re using the right equipment.
To minimise asbestos dust, use hand tools instead of power tools, and keep materials damp, but not wet. Clean up as you go, using a special (class H) vacuum cleaner (not a brush). Double-bag asbestos waste and label the bags properly.
When working with asbestos, always wear a proper mask. Ordinary dust masks are not effective.
How Asbestos Causes Lung Cancer
Companies and manufacturers have mined and used asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, for commercial purposes in North America since the late 1800s. It is now highly regulated and a number of countries, including U.S. government agencies, classify it as a human carcinogen. When someone disturbs an asbestos-containing product, they release the microscopic fibers into the air. If inhaled, these thin fibers can become trapped in the lungs. Over long periods of time, they can accumulate and cause inflammation, scarring and other critical health problems. In some cases, the fibers can even trigger the development of lung cancer.