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Study offers prediction for Alzheimer patients

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Do the math and you’ll be overwhelmed at the numbers — Alzheimer’s patients, increasing daily. Now a new study offers a prediction for just how bad it will be and who needs to wake up before their memory goes.

Since 1993, Rush University Medical Center researchers have followed thousands of Chicagoans – all 65 and older – from four different neighborhoods. The task – take a snap shot of the baby boomer generation today.

Dr. Jennifer Weuve, Alzheimer’s researcher, Rush University Medical Center: “We were interested in knowing how many people are living with Alzheimer’s Disease right now. The second number we were interested in is the number of people who will have AD in the future, all the way up to 2050.”

Today, about five million people are living with Alzheimer’s. In 40 years …

Dr. Jennifer Weuve: “It may triple by 2050 to 13.8 million, and that number is larger than the population of Illinois including Chicago.”

Memory tests, physical exams and health screens gave investigators a clear picture of the population. Information from the Chicago study group was then combined with current and future population rates from U.S. census data to determine the startling future projection.

Dr. Jennifer Weuve: “It is having these numbers as a baseline that will help us prepare for this oncoming, staggering epidemic. We certainly need to make preparations in terms of providing the best services for people who have this condition. And services that are most helpful to their caregivers.

Leatha Patton is one of the 10,000 Chicagoans being followed through the ongoing Chicago Health and Aging Project. An active and healthy 75-year-old who just completed her first novel, she’s hoping to help write another story.

Leatha Patton: “I’m curious to know where it will lead me. I want to know what’s going to happen and what happens to other people. It’s going to almost triple. I can’t believe it. This is awful. That’s mind boggling.”

The next step is to study what works best to support not just patients but their families in such a challenging time.

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