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Alzheimer's 'Epidemic' Hitting Minorities Hardest
Date:3/9/2010

more cases of Alzheimer's, but more families are shouldering the burden of the disease, Carrillo said. This is particularly true for minority families who may have less access to outside care.

"There are 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer's," noted Robert J. Egge, vice president of public policy and advocacy. "And for each of those people there are many others whose lives are consumed with caring for those Alzheimer's patients," he said.

That totals some 11 million Americans, Egge said.

In 2009, these unpaid caregivers provided 12.5 billion hours of care "valued at $144 billion, more than the federal government spends on Medicare and Medicaid combined for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias," according to the report.

Part of the problem is that Alzheimer's isn't recognized until it is in a late stage, Egge said. "So there isn't adequate care planning and other kind of support structures, especially in communities with socioeconomic disadvantages," he said.

Another reason behind Alzheimer's grim rise is that people are living longer -- escaping illnesses such as heart disease and cancer that might have killed them before Alzheimer's arose.

"We are managing many diseases that do allow us to live longer," Carrillo said. "With age being the greatest risk factor, we are just skewing our population towards the Alzheimer's arena."

Another expert agreed.

"We have some pretty effective solutions for a lifetime of cardiovascular disease risk, but your bypass and stent may just give you time to dement," said Greg M. Cole, a neuroscientist at the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System and associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Often, it all adds up to many years of needed care. And since it often takes a long time to die from Alzheimer's, "you may have lost touch with your loved ones for 10 years, sometimes eve
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