It makes no sense that health care professionals are less likely to tell their patients of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease than if they had to break the bad news about other chronic or incurable diseases.
The Alzheimer’s Association report said that 45 percent of Medicare patients diagnosed with the disease said they were informed by their physician. However, more than 90 percent of Medicare patients with cancer are notified by their doctor. That is alarming and unconscionable.
Physicians need to have the courage to break the news to patients and inform them of options and let them know how the disease might progress. It takes time for families to marshal resources to assist the person with Alzheimer’s. The caregivers are the ones who have to shoulder the problem and the associated costs.
The Alzheimer’s Association notes, “In 2015, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer's will total an estimated $226 billion, with half of the costs borne by Medicare.” Currently there is no known cause or cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Almost two-thirds are women. By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease will reach 7.1 million. By 2050, 13.8 million Americans over age 65 are expected to have Alzheimer’s.
The association notes, “Alzheimer's is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.”