Alzheimers Literature Review Discussion Sample
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the brain and leads to a loss of the functionality and structure of the neurons that form building blocks. As a result, the disease leads to memory loss among a majority of those it affects. The other symptoms associated with the condition include problems with communicating coherently and in a meaningful way, quick shifts in the temperament, loss of personal and social conduct appreciation and withdrawal. The disease over a period physically depreciates the affected body and leads to death as main organs are wasted away (Elio, Schelterns & Feldman, 2011). On average, most individuals succumb to the disease 3 to 9 years after diagnosis.
The causes of the disease are poorly understood but it is generally accepted that genetics have the largest role to play in determining who gets affected by the disease. Other factors that are believed to cause the condition are many forms of depression, or injuries to the brain. As earlier stated, the disease begins by wasting away neurons found in the brain. Degeneration also occurs in other parts like the frontal cortex and leads to the general shrinking of the brain. This paper seeks into Alzheimer’s as a disease that affects a sizeable portion of the population more so the elderly, and evaluate its effects on the society at large (Jeffrey et al, 2018).
The Burden of the Problem
Alzheimer’s is a growing social phenomenon because of the demographic changes that have occurred from the beginning of the boomer generation. The condition mostly affects the elderly and is equivalent to dementia. The demographic change that has been occurring in the last few decades has seen two effects. Firstly, a larger section of the population is living longer and increasing the number of people at risk of getting the disease. An aging population also translates to a larger percentage of the population is at risk of getting afflicted by the disease. As a result, the disease has become a large social burden to the community, the health sector and the government because of the increased costs. The social cost of the disease in the United States is estimated to be $100 billion annually (Jeffrey et al, 2018).
Such huge amounts of money that other sectors of the national budget or health budget are transferred to cater for the rising costs of the condition. Additionally, individuals suffering from the disease are not able to contribute to the national economy as a result of their condition, essentially hurting the employment economy. The largest portion of the costs involved with Alzheimer’s is care that the affected have to give over a long period. This means the construction and expanding of institutions that cater to the patients. The in-patient’s model of the care system represents a costly affair for the state and family involved given that it is also labor intensive. For those who choose to have home care, the cost of lost earnings can be a big detriment to the family finances (Jeffrey et al, 2018). .
The financial burden increases the disease takes its toll and the patient can no longer communicate or interact or remember recent happenings. Loss of memory leads to social discomforts and may tear apart at families. The costs and time taken to care for patients of the disease are not fully catered for or covered by these programs. However, the cost already paid at the initial stages stretch any national health fund and may mean that the fund does not cover other areas of interest. In the United States, the disease is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death among the general population. When the figures are narrowed down to reflect its effects on the elderly, the disease becomes the third leading cause of death among that age group (Leon, et al, 2013).
Currently, the disease has no known cure and patients are only given the at most care in a bid to make their lives as comfortable as possible. However, early diagnosis gives the individual and family time to try out options that are on clinical trial. Thus, the disease requires the best medical attendance to prevent more harm (Jeffrey et al, 2018).
Treatment and Prevention
The disease is not very well understood concerning its causes or why it only afflicts the older people in society. However, studies have shown the development of the disease with the gradual wasting away of the brain with the aim of better understanding the condition. Through these studies, scientists have been able to link the disease with how the brain changes as one gets older. As earlier stated, the main cause of the disease is thought to be genetics with the likelihood of it affecting people of the same family higher than those of another family without a relative who was once diagnosed with the disease (Leon, et al, 2013). The genetic link between the disease and individuals suffering from it means that it is much harder to treat in the future because it is a genetic disorder. However, it may also mean that it is easier to identify people as a larger risk of conducting the disease.
Research and trials have shown that meditation methods alongside other techniques can progressively help lead to a memory recovery process. Other forms of interventions such as constant brain simulation and repetitiveness can lead to a slowing down of the worst ravages of memory loss. Early diagnosis of the disease leads to treatment that preserves the mental state but only for a short period (Elio, Schelterns & Feldman, 2011). It is important to note that the worst ravages of the disease cannot be stopped. Individuals can, however, join clinical trials to help scientists to understand the condition better and come up with treatment for the condition. Currently, the National Institute of Aging leads the research in finding the answers to the most pertinent questions about the disease.
Alzheimer’s is currently the only condition/disease that scientists do not have a way of either preventing, treating or mitigating its worst effects. Given that it is the third disease in terms of taking away lives, it is quite ironic that research for the disease gets low funding from governments across the world. However, in the United States, the Federal government has increased its funding for research of the disease by a factor of four to currently stand at $2.3 billion dollars. Despite the progress, funding remains still below the amounts sufficient enough to mount a strong enough research network towards finding working solutions for the disease (Leon, et al, 2013). Across the fifty states, funding remains poor and does not form a priority for most health departments in states.
Funding for the research needed cannot depend solely on the Federal government and will need all stakeholders to chip in, more so the private sector. Some of these sector players include industry, venture capital, individual donations, the federal government and singular states. Drug development for the disease has been discouraging for the industry more so with a failure rate of 99%. With the total costs of drug development estimated at five and a half billion dollars ($5.6 billion), and the period it takes to get the green light for trials, the industry has been reluctant to invest large amounts of capital (Leon, et al, 2013).
To put it into perspective, the disease has a larger negative impact, as earlier explained, to the US economy than other ailments and yet gets lower funding when compared to either of them. The annual cost of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease changes with the level of the condition. The mild form of the disease costs $20,000 annually, the moderate stage, $34,087 while the severe stage costs $38,102. A middle-class family will struggle to pay the bills and which explains the need for greater federal funding towards the disease (Leon, et al, 2013).
Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition that is not very much into the national consciousness and which given its impact on the overall economy shows the great levels that the government and scientific community need to undertake to make it more visible. The need for a greater conversation regarding the disease is needed primarily because of the funding shortfalls that exist and lead families struggling to balance their books. However, action has to be a multi-pronged approach that includes all the stakeholders to have a greater impact more so on the affected (Leon, et al, 2013). With enough medical strategies put in place, it will be easy to treat Alzheimer disease before growing to chronic stages. Therefore, both federal and state governments should work hand in hand in innovating new treatment approaches against Alzheimer aong other diseases.
- Alzheimer’s Association (2019). Research Funding, A case for Increased funding and current state. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/get-involved-now/advocate/research-funding
- Alzheimer’s Research UK (2019). Measuring progress and impact -We monitor the impact and progress of the research that we fund in a number of ways. Retrieved from: https://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/
- Elio, S., Schelterns, P., & Feldman, H. (2011). Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; current status and new perspectives. Volume 2, Issue 9, September 2011, Pages 539-547. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(03)00502-7
- Jeffrey, C., Carl, R., & Parvesh, K. (2018). The price of progress: Funding and financing Alzheimer’s disease drug development. Alzheimer’s Dement (N Y). 2018; 4: 330–343. Retrieved from: https://10.1016/j.trci.2018.04.008
- Leon, J., Cheng, C., & Neumann, P. (2013). Alzheimer’s Disease Care: Costs and Potential Savings. Health affairs (Project Hope). 17. 206-16. Retrieved from: https://10.1377/hlthaff.17.6.206