In the 1970s and 1980s, a plague called AIDS swept through this country. Like a medieval scourge it was mysterious, incurable, and ruthless as it killed those who were far too young to die.
Now, baby-boomers have reason to fear a new scourge: It won’t cut them down in their youth, but if they dodge heart disease and beat cancer they may find themselves trapped in their bodies, watching their minds dissolve.
Did you know that a woman who is now 65 stands a 20% chance of dying of Alzheimer’s? (See Michael Kinsley’s essay in the New Yorker.)
On Bloomberg View Matthew C. Klein has put together a booklet of “visual data” titled: “How Americans Die.” These stunning interactive graphs will startle you. For instance, were you aware that suicide has recently become the leading cause of violent death in the U.S.?
But it is the pages devoted to Alzheimer’s here and here that stopped me in my tracks.
I turns out that about 40% of the increase in Medicare spending since 2011 can be attributed to greater spending on Alzheimer’s treatment.(We don’t have reliable data on Alzheimer’s spending before that.) And that number is bound to climb.)
The Boomers will be the second generation to die of dementia, but the first to see it coming.
These charts are terrifying but important. We need to begin thinking about how to cope with Alzheimer’s. Here, The Mayo Clinic outlines “What is On the Horizon for Alzheimer’s.”
I’m not optimistic about a cure anytime in the foreseeable future. But we definitely need to think about how to care for the many who will be suffering from this dreadful disease.