In a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers show that deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease increased almost 55% between 1999 and 2014. Also, more patients are perishing at home, which likely will increase the burden on family members or other unpaid caregivers.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. In the United States alone the disease affects 5.5 million adults and is the the sixth most common cause of death. That number is expected to climb to 13.8 million by 2050, affecting mostly adults older than 65 years, which is the group at greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s.
To gain full insight of the deaths caused by Alzheimer’s, researchers at the CDC examined state and county death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System. They analyzed certificates issued from 1999-2014 and calculated the age-adjusted mortality rates using the 2000 U.S. standard population.
In the report, “Deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease — United States, 1999–2014,“ researchers reveal that the rates of Alzheimer’s mortality have increased significantly in 41 states and the District of Columbia during that 15-year period. Specifically, “the age-adjusted Alzheimer’s death rate per 100,000 population increased from 16.5 (44,536 deaths) in 1999 to 25.4 (93,541 deaths) in 2014, an increase of 54.5%,” researchers wrote. Only one state, Maine, presented a significant decrease in age-adjusted Alzheimer’s deaths.
Counties with the highest age-adjusted rates were in the Southeast primarily. Additional areas also presenting high mortality rates were observed in the Midwest and West.
In 1999 and 2014, 67.5% and 54.1%, respectively, of Alzheimer’s disease deaths occurred in a nursing home or long-term care facility. The percentage of patients who perished at home also has increased – from 13.9% in 1999, to 24.9% in 2014. In contrast, deaths in medical facilities have seen a decrease, falling from 14.7% in 1999, to 6.6% in 2014.
Addressing the implications of these results to public health practice, researchers wrote, “Given the increasing number of Alzheimer’s deaths and persons with Alzheimer’s dying at home, there is a growing number of caregivers who likely can benefit from interventions like education, respite care, and home health assistance; such interventions can lessen the burden of caregiving and can improve the care received by persons with Alzheimer’s.”