Annual Alzheimer’s Association Report highlights high incidence of disease and cost of care in North Carolina

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A new report published Tuesday shows new statistics about the number of people across North Carolina who have Alzheimer’s and those who are caring for these individuals.

The Alzheimer’s Association 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report details national and state-by-state statistics on those living with the disease, caregiving, mortality, and everything that encompasses treating and managing the disease.

According to the report, an estimated 10-15 percent of individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) go on to develop dementia each year.

The report further states that as the size of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to grow (from 58 million in 2021 to 88 million by 2050), so too will the number and proportion of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias given increased risk of dementia with advancing age.

The report highlights the following disease-related statistics for North Carolina:

  • Number of North Carolina residents aged 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s: 180,000
  • Estimated number of North Carolina residents living with Alzheimer’s in 2025: 210,000
  • Percentage change: 16.7%
  • Statewide deaths from Alzheimer’s disease (2019): 4,508
  • Number of North Carolina residents serving as unpaid family caregivers: 356,000
  • Total hours of unpaid care provided: 514 million
  • Total value of unpaid care: $7.3 billion

Brooke Vallely is the program manager for the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She says these numbers highlight the importance of early detection and early diagnosis for a number of medical conditions.

“Things like cardiovascular disease and diabetes are tied to an increase in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,” Vallely said.

There’s also a need for lawmakers to create policies and allocate additional funding to care for the anticipated wave of people expected to suffer from the disease in the next couple of decades.

“If you think about the cost of care, not only do we need dementia care workers that are going to treat, diagnose and manage people, we need to have policies in place related to Medicare and Medicaid,” Vallely said. “We need to be able to support our families as they continue to age and have to make these difficult decisions and need support.”

In the Cape Fear region, the population in Brunswick County continues to grow at an explosive rate and many of those moving to the region are retirees. A number of these individuals will at some point require MCI care and there will be a need for more health providers skilled to work with our aging population.

This will also create financial challenges for people caring for a loved one.

“Dementia caregivers have almost twice as much out-of-pocket expenses compared to someone that is not caring for someone with dementia,” Vallely said.

Those out-of-pocket expenses include medical care, personal care, and household expenses for the person living with them.

“We need to increase resources,” Vallely said. “We need to increase staffing–whether it is geriatrician, home health and personal aid workers–to help these people living with dementia and their caregivers to help support them.

The Alzheimer’s Association is also launching a program called “Managing Money: A Caregiver’s Guide to Finances” aimed at helping people learn how to manage someone else’s finances. The first program will be held on March 29.

There’s also a 24/7 helpline available with dementia care experts. That number is 800-272-3900. They can help caregivers and their families, give care consultations, answer questions, and help caregivers tap in to available resources. They’re also available in multiple languages and for those who are visually and hearing impaired.

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