Alzheimer’s diagnoses expected to reach nearly 13 million by 2050: report
An estimated 6.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today — about one in every nine people age 65 and older.
That number is expected to nearly double over the next two decades, reaching nearly 13 million by 2050, according to a new report published by the Alzheimer’s Association on Wednesday.
Despite promising advances in the treatment of early-stage patients, the Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report revealed some key challenges, including lack of communication with doctors and missed opportunities for early-stage diagnoses and intervention.
Population growth fuels Alzheimer’s spike
“The population of people age 65 and older is expected to grow from 58 million in 2021 to 88 million in 2050,” Nicole Purcell, DO, general neurologist and senior director of clinical practice at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, Illinois, told Fox News Digital in an interview.
Meanwhile, the baby boomer generation has started to reach age 65 and older, putting them at the largest risk for Alzheimer’s, the report noted.
“Thanks to advances in medical technology and healthier lifestyles, people are living longer than ever before,” Gary Small, MD, chair of psychiatry at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey told Fox News Digital in an email.
“Since age is the greatest single risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, as our population ages, so does the number of people afflicted with the disease.”
Staff shortages and widening gap in care
Neurologists and geriatricians are seen as the best medical professionals to recommend treatments for people with Alzheimer’s, and geriatricians are generally best equipped to provide day-to-day care, the report noted.
(Geriatricians are primary care physicians with a specialized focus on, treating older patients, while neurologists specialize in treating diseases involving the nervous system, including Alzheimer’s.)
A growing shortage of medical professionals, however, poses what seems to many an insurmountable challenge.
“We already have a shortage of health care workers, and this is only going to increase as the population ages and we’re keeping folks alive longer,” said Dr. Purcell of Chicago.
Providing effective care for the nearly 13 million seniors who are expected to have Alzheimer’s by 2050 would require nearly three times the current number of geriatricians, according to the report.
“Ageism, limited reimbursement and other factors have contributed to a workforce shortage of geriatric internists and psychiatrists who specialize in Alzheimer’s disease assessment and treatment,” said Dr. Small.
“Without a major shift in public policy to incentivize the training of geriatric specialists, the major health care providers for these patients will continue to be primary care physicians.”