January 27th, 2011
05:37 PM ET

Alzheimer's called 'defining disease' of baby boomers

As any family who has gone through it can tell you, Alzheimer's disease is tragic on a number of levels.  Once vibrant men and women become shells of the people they once were.  Not only do memories fade, there also is anger.  And loneliness.  Former first lady Nancy Reagan famously referred to it as "the long goodbye."

As the first baby boomers turn 65 this year, a new report suggests they will be especially hit hard.  One out of eight boomers will develop the disease, according to the report released by the Alzheimer's Association.  That comes to about 10 million people.  Of those who reach 85, nearly one in two will get it.  "Alzheimer's is a tragic epidemic that has no survivors.  It is as much a thief as a killer," says Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, in a press release.

Currently Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.  Each year, it kills more Americans than breast and prostate cancer combined.  Last year, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementias cost families, insurers and the government $172 billion.  In 2050, researchers estimate, it will cost more than $1 trillion.

There is currently no treatment or cure for Alzheimer's.  Officials with the Alzheimer's Association say it's time for the government to start spending more to fund research.  They point to the money spent on cancer and AIDS and the strides made in treatment.

"When the federal government has been focused, committed and willing to put the necessary resources to work to confront a disease that poses a real public health threat to the nation – there has been great success," says Robert. J. Egge, vice president of public policy of the Alzheimer’s Association.  "In order to see the day where Alzheimer’s is no longer a death sentence, we need to see that type of commitment with Alzheimer’s."

For more about Alzheimer's disease, click here.

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Someone

    So if Alzheimer's is a thief and killer, does that mean that those responsible for causing the disease are killers? That is exactly what those who are pumping everyone with mercury loaded flu shots are doing. This is a good question to ask...maybe criminal charges should be brought???

    January 27, 2011 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew L

      Flu shots have absolutely nothing to do with Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is the result of improperly clipped proteins sticking together and clogging up the brain. All people have this malfunction; the only difference is how frequently it occurs. Consequently, given enough time, every single human being would eventually die of Alzheimer's. The only reason we're seeing more deaths from this particular problem now is that we've made so much progress dealing with -other- conditions: it has been lurking in the background since the beginning.

      January 27, 2011 at 21:10 | Report abuse |
    • Fernando

      I wouldn't concern yourselves too much about these cowardly sociopaths posting here. They undoubtedly are leading unhappy, pathetic lives. Not a one of them will ever know the feel of dating the prom queen, placing in a foot race, making big money or someone telling them they have a great body. I'm pretty sure they all have bad breath and pleasure themselves excessively. Genuine losers and more miserable than you can imagine.
      My father is deep into Alzheimer's and due to his innate temperament, he is enjoying life and has way more class than these cretins.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:36 | Report abuse |
  2. Bree

    This has to be one of the worst things to watch your loved one go through. My grandma has had it a very long time. I only remember her as "normal" when I was about 7. Now I am 21, and my grandma has long since forgotten who me and my siblings are, who her own children are, and forgotten who she is herself. It is crushing watching someone deteriorate over years and years until they are a shell of a person who doesn't even TRY to guess who anyone is anymore, or why they are doing what they are doing.

    She used to sing her favorite songs all day while doing crosswords (with Alzheimer). As it progressed, she went from singing, to humming, and then forgetting the songs completely. She is also unable to even do a crossword anymore.

    Really very sad. I hope I don't have to see this again with my parents, because it would be the worst thing to ever experience.

    January 27, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. oh my

    The tragedy for my family was not admitting early on to what was happening with my mom so that we all could be supportive of her and one another TOGETHER. And it was truly sad for me when some family members would ask my mother questions " to test her". The lack of sensitivity to her emotional state was heart-wrenching. There is no need to "test" someone suffering from dementia, or "test" anyone for that matter. We all are fallible, so better to be honest and recognize the problem and seek one another's support and reach out and give and take love while the give and take is still to be had than pretend that all is well. That way, there CAN be a long goodbye, instead of a stolen goodbye.

    January 27, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. chance2

    The government really needs to step up and provide more than minimal funding to help researchers at least find a treatment if not a cure. This is such a horrible and degrading disease. To have to watch a loved one, who was once vibrant and full of life, end up laying in a hosptial bed unable to swallow even a drink or communicate that they need to use the restroom is uncomprehensible to those who have never experienced it. I had to watch as my father, the seemingly indestructible man that I knew, turn into just a body with no way of communicating with those around him. He seemed to die before my eyes without actually dying, until he was ending his second year with the disease. As horrible as it was on me and the rest of the family, I cannot even imagine what it was like for him to experience as you could see that he was 'in there' desperately trying to communicate. RIP Daddy.

    There can be a treatment or a cure – all that is needed is the funding and backing!!! I praise the Alzheimer's Association for all that they do in their attempt to bring this disease and its associated costs to the foreground for the general public and legislature.

    January 27, 2011 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RAC

      I think it's time a lot more emphasis and research was placed on this horrific disease. I don't understand why with all the money that has already been "poured into" this effort a lot more new information has not already surfaced.

      January 28, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse |
  5. Sles

    Understanding and gaining greater control over the physical deterioration of our brains that comes with the deterioration of our body needs to be a much greater priority. As someone who has worked with many people being suffering from different forms of dementia it’s frustrating to still be speculating about the causes. As we continue to find cures for other diseases we're going to live longer and the problem is going to get worse and worse. I truly hope Washington puts more emphasis on funding brain research.


    January 28, 2011 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. admiral 149

    My wife never had flu shots, high blood pressure, or any other health problems. She was never over weight. She exercised and ate well. She did not use drugs or alcohol. She was educated and lead a busy challenging, and stimulating work and social life. She also developed Alzheimer's disease in her 48 year of life. Currently I am the only person she knows. Early onset Alzheimers is a killer. Alzheimers has become a "catch all" ailment used to describe all kinds of disabilities associated with the natural aging process, but, it is not part of the natural aging process.

    January 28, 2011 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. nanarbor

    Ron Reagan's revelations about his father came as no big surprise to me. I have seen early and late onset Alzheimer's and it's such a cruel and awful disease. I worked in a senior citizens center and heard adult children of Alzheimer's patients excuse their non visitation with "Mother's just not herself anymore". It is doubly tragic that this disease isolates the patient from him or herself as well as from their nearest and dearest.

    January 28, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Tim59

    I'm certain that an effective Alzheimer's treatment would be very lucrative for whatever companies developed it. If the government, i.e. taxpayers, step in and start funding R&D what is their payback?

    January 28, 2011 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. rocketcityguy

    If the government helps fund the R&D, then any resulting therapies can be reasonably priced because the private companies won't be trying to recoup their R&D investment. The companies who make the drug(s) can make a reasonable profit, and the people who need the drug can afford it.

    January 28, 2011 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. neuroperson

    Hmm.. the article says no treatment or cure for alzhiemers? Well the cure part is accurate but there are a number of FDA approved and non-FDA approved medications that can treat memory, mood, attention, behaviour, and sleep problems associated with the disease. Just saying..

    January 28, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sweetPeach

      As you said, there are medications that can treat the problems "associated with the disease". But, there are still no medications that treat the disease process itself so the article is correct.

      January 28, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
    • Pivot Senior Living Experts

      Agreed. I thought it was strange that this article claims there are no treatments available for Alzheimer's. As an architect specializing in Alzheimer's facilities and the senior living industry in general, I have devoted most of my career to learning about dementia related diseases, more specifically, how to treat them in a safe, securely-built environment. There are indeed treatments available.
      Senior Housing Consultants in Texas

      February 3, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
  11. No Moderators??

    Here we go again with the jerks that think it is funny to make fun of a horrific disease. I would hope that THEY end up with this disease but at that point they will not realize they have it and it will be their families that suffer.

    January 28, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. BarbB

    There was new legislation signed on Jan 4 that is meant to aid in the battle against AD. "NAPA [National Alzheimer’s Project Act] creates for the first time a coordinated national strategy to confront one of America’s most feared and costly diseases, a disease that will only plague more baby boomers as they age. Given the scale of the Alzheimer epidemic and the growing number of Americans directly affected every single day, NAPA will provide an essential framework within the government that recognizes the Alzheimer crisis is no longer emerging but is here."

    January 28, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Carol

    On 1-10-11, I physically lost my mother, though I had really lost "her" in 1996. Her baby sister, a twin, also was stricken with Alzheimer's and died in 2009, so the defective gene is alive and well in my system and my brothers and cousins as well. As a baby boomer, the future certainly does not look very bright, as I have personal experience on the minimal attention given to an Alzheimer's patient by our medical professionals. When I took my Mom to the ER about a month before her death with a raging UTI, the ER doctor asked her age (89) and look at me like to say "why isn't she dead?". Well, she lived another few weeks and ultimately died from a blood clot in her heart, not from Alzheimer's. God help us, as this world has no time, money, or interest in helping people stricken with Alzheimer's..

    January 28, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply


      February 9, 2011 at 19:34 | Report abuse |
  14. QA

    Stem cell based treatment is the only logical path towards a cure. The human embryo contains a cell that develops into every part of the human body. Why not use that cell to repair and regrow damaged parts? Especially if it can be done without hurting the embryo. Advanced Cell Technology, a California based firm is spearheading this research without damaging the embryo. Read about them and their CSO Dr. Robert Lanza.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Carol

    Al Z Heimer – – when the person which you share your lifetime of memories and accomplishments and failures stares blankly into space, I hope that you get to hear/read smart-ass remarks like you have been spewing....

    January 28, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • No Moderators??

      Don't waste your breath with this troll... he spewed the same crap in a previous AD story. Obviously CNN hasn't a clue how to respond to reported abuse posts. The posts prove that this person has no clue what it is like to care about someone other then themselves.

      January 28, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
  16. SueT

    My long goodbye to my husband of 46 years has now been going on for over 9 years. The past 3 years he has lived in a full time care facility and no longer recognizes me as someone he should know.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Squeezebox

    My father was diagnosed with pre-senile dementia when he was 50. I was thirteen and felt like somebody had stolen my Dad and replaced him with a chimpanzee! Alzheimer's is the worst kind of thief!

    January 28, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. kay white

    I also don't understand why CNN allows some of these posts. There will be a horrific subject under discussion and some of the remarks made are rude and disgusting and/or having nothing to do with the article at all. Please do something about this. I want to see intelligent comments from people who have something to add or an experience to share and not read a bunch of crap from some idiot that does not care.

    January 28, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. PRP

    Look around the world. Some cultures have low rate of occurrence of Alzheimer's disease. Besides genetics, a lot depends on what we eat, breathe and drink. Lately importance of turmeric's influence on the onset of Alzheimer's has been talked about in media and research reports. Check out turalz.

    January 28, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Sue

    I'm saddened by the insensitivity of some who haven't the ability of foresight. We who ignore the travesties of the present are apt to be sitting at the same table of those fighting for the remains of lifes precious desserts. God Bless.

    January 28, 2011 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sue


    I'm saddened by the insensitivity of some who haven't the ability of foresight. We who ignore the travesties of the present are apt to be sitting at the same table of those fighting for the remains of lifes precious desserts. God Bless.

    January 28, 2011 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Denise Graab

    Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue! To help illustrate and raise more awareness about the staggering scope of this disease in the United States, Caring.com compiled this Alzheimer's By the Numbers infographic that is free to republish with attribution: http://www.caring.com/infographics/alzheimers-disease-by-the-numbers While putting more attention to prevention and treatment, our nation must also find better ways to support the 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's now, as well as the 11 million people providing unpaid care to them. For half of the 1100 family caregivers that Caring.com surveyed in August 2010, caring for their loved one with Alzheimer's was the biggest source of stress in their lives; more than double the stress rating they gave the downturn in the economy, their jobs, and other family relationships. [More results from the survey, including the financial impact of caregiving, are available here: http://www.caring.com/about/news-room/caring-com-launches-first-customizable-alzheimers-resource-for-family-caregivers.html ]. While Caring.com isn't solely focused on Alzheimer's, over 40,000 active members in the community are caring for a loved one living with this disease. To further support them, Caring.com launched Steps & Stages, a free customizable resource that helps caregivers assess the stage of Alzheimer's their loved one is in, understand what symptoms to expect (and how to cope with them), and connect with other caregivers in online communities. http://www.caring.com/steps-stages/alzheimers We welcome feedback about ways we can further help family caregivers with the challenges they face in caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer's disease.

    January 28, 2011 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Very Aggravated

    It upsets me how difficult it is for expert scientists to make progress on finding a cure for this horrific disease due to the current business model that is in place. Investors, ironically many of the same people who will suffer from AD one day, are hesitant to invest in biotech start ups. As a result, the public relies on big pharma and big non-profits, the latter of which has no interest in curing these diseases. Spending money on ____ Cancer Awareness Month will not cure ____ cancer. I mean, who isn't aware of cancer anyway? These non-profits have become self-serving bureaucracies, with their money being spent on walks, overhead and the research of some designated academic - a person whose sole motivation is to publish articles, not cure diseases. If we are to see any progress made on neurodegenerative diseases, the public is going to have to get serious about investing in small, start-up biotech labs. Labs that are filled with scientists who have flawless track records and exceptional talent. A friend of mine and world renowned scientist has a technology with real potential to help diagnose neurodegenerative diseases early and reverse some of the damage. Yet, aside from a small government grant, he has been unable to secure serious funding. Consequently, he works 18 hour days on a shoe string budget. As a society, we are simply pretending to care. Unless we modify our approach, our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers will continue to be plagued by these diseases.

    January 29, 2011 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Lynn Reeves, Director

    I have been the director of The Caring Place of Hot Springsfor 15 years. When will doctors do more than give medication to treat this disease? We are an adult day care that specializes in Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. We are in our 18th year and our participants do art, quilt, dance, cognitive games, writing, reading, fishing, some homework and many other therapies. We served over 1600 participnats in the last quarter of 2010. I have people that could'nt talk that now talk and sing. We worry about research and that we need, but we also need to treat the people already affected. Our people are remarkable! People that visit our program are amazed! I am here to say there is life after the diagnosis! We are keeping people out of nursing homes and helping the the families with their care. We treat the person from the inside out and trust me they are still there.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Debbie

    There is no cure for Alzheimers but the combo of Aricept and Namenda has slowed the progression of AD in my mother. We caught it early and began Aricept 1st then Namenda the next year. She is 86 and has noticably had AD for 2 years.

    February 3, 2011 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Debbie

    If you researched there are different kinds of AD. One that strikes early, maybe in your 40's or 50's. Another kind strikes older seniors. My aunt had Ad that struck in her late 40's and was rapidly progressive. She forgot who she was, her family her address, etc. She rapidly progressed to not remembering how to eat, wash herself, didn't sleep but for a few hours at a time. Her Ad was totally different from my mom's. My aunt and my mom are not related.

    February 3, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Third Generation

    My grandmother, my grandmother's two sisters, (great aunts), and my mother all started with this horrible disease when they were in their 60's . They all passed away in their 80's, with the exception of my mother who is now 81 and the longest living nursing home resident with 9 years under care. I had an allergic reaction to my first flu shot, over 35 years ago and have never had one since. I still think I will suffer from this scourge. Science and research cannot move fast enough for me.and many other families who see this disease generation after generation !

    February 3, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Laurie Larson

    I missed the presentation and would like to view it and possibly purchase a copy for nursing students to view as part of geriatric training. Is it available for purchase?

    February 4, 2011 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Michael Peterson

    My father has Alzheimer's and has had it four about 10 years ..He still knows us (most of the time) He was one of the smartest
    men that I have ever known (forget he is my dad) . Alzheimer's stole my father

    February 6, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Chris Baker

    We deal with this everyday. I own a home care agency. I have noticed that with certain cognitive exercises this condition can improve.


    June 3, 2015 at 05:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Gabrielfet

    https://bit.ly/2TBGPyA – Sex without obligation

    – Sex without obligation


    November 29, 2020 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Gabrielfet

    https://bit.ly/2I3ZL7m – Sex without obligation in your city

    – Flirting in your city


    November 30, 2020 at 06:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Gabrielfet

    https://bit.ly/34GSPFv – Dating and sex without obligation in your city

    – Meet, be inspired, communicate and continue flirting! Follow the link


    December 1, 2020 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Gabrielfet

    https://bit.ly/3pqNrie – Sex without obligation in your city

    – Meet, be inspired, communicate and continue flirting! Follow the link


    December 1, 2020 at 02:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Rodgerfuo

    https://bit.ly/3pn28mx – Dating and sex without obligation in your city

    https://bit.ly/3pn28mx – Flirting in your city

    December 17, 2020 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Rodgerlsl

    https://bit.ly/3pqNrie – Sex without obligation in your city

    https://bit.ly/2I3ZL7m – Meet, be inspired, communicate and continue flirting! Follow the link

    December 19, 2020 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Rodgeredo

    https://bit.ly/2I3ZL7m – Dating and sex without obligation in your city

    https://bit.ly/3pn28mx – Flirting in your city

    December 22, 2020 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Rodgerpnh

    https://bit.ly/3pqNrie – Sex without obligation in your city

    https://bit.ly/2I3ZL7m – Meet, be inspired, communicate and continue flirting! Follow the link

    December 22, 2020 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Gabrielfet

    https://bit.ly/2I3ZL7m – Meet, be inspired, communicate and continue flirting! Follow the link

    https://bit.ly/3pqNrie – Flirting in your city


    January 6, 2021 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.