About 4 million American households include at least one adult with increasing memory loss or confusion, a new federal study shows,
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study is the first to report on worsening memory loss or confusion in households and could offer insight into the health and financial consequences for families. Older adults with complaints about memory have a greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, which is potentially a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
Matthew Baumgart, the senior director of policy for the Alzheimer’s Association, told NBC Owned Television Stations that the findings should be a "wake-up call for the long-term care system."
“It is really important to look at these numbers, and for the public health system to take notice,” Baumgart said. “It’s a wake-up call for the long-term care system. It should be a wake-up call for the federal government to invest more in the research so that we can change the trajectory of the disease.”
The researchers analyzed data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, looking at households in 13 states in which at least one adult had memory loss or confusion that had gotten worse in the last 12 months.
They found that included 12.6 percent of households. In 5.4 percent of households, all of the adults had experienced increased memory loss or confusion.
The researchers wrote that their findings highlighted the magnitude of the problem and could affect public policies.
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“For example, increasing awareness about recognition of signs and symptoms of cognitive decline in self or others can allow household members to seek medical advice and plan for future needs,” they wrote.
Baumgart said that there was an epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and that the numbers were projected to get even worse.
“We’re going to go from over 5 million Americans living with the disease today to as many as 16 million by 2050 — that’s tripling the number of people who are living with this disease,” Baumgart said. “It’s the most expensive disease in America so you can imagine the burden that this huge growing number of people with it will is going to have on our system unless we do something about it.”
Baumgart said that the CDC’s data on people beginning to have memory problems was important as a good predictor for future dementia.
“It is really important to look at these numbers, and for the public health system to take notice,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call for the long-term care system. It should be a wake-up call for the federal government to invest more in the research so that we can change the trajectory of the disease.”
A second report, also from the CDC, looked at the age and health of Americans with memory limitations and also difficulties functioning. It found that they tended to be younger.
Those researchers looked at data for people 45 years or older from 21 states that participated in the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
“Eligibility for services is often age-dependent; our findings underscore a need to ensure assistance for people who have increased confusion or memory loss and functional difficulties but who do not meet the present age-related eligibility requirements,” the researchers wrote.
NBC Owned Television Stations' Jennifer Vasquez and Evan Carr contributed to this report.