The calm, inviting water of a pond in Medfield/Photo by Stephen Corso

Alzheimer`s Disease is a progressive brain illness that causes large numbers of nerve cells in the brain to die, leading to memory loss and other physical symptoms that gradually worsen over time.

It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50 to 80 percent of all dementia cases according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

What caregivers should know about Alzheimer’s

While much is still unknown about Alzheimer’s, researchers have discovered a lot about the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association, the leading nonprofit organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research, offers extensive, up-to-date information about the disease [PDF]:

  • Despite extensive ongoing research, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at this point.
  • There are medications that are used to treat the disease. They do not reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s, but can slow the progression of the disease in some people.
  • Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death for people age 65 and older. Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 68 percent between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from other major diseases, including the leading cause of death (heart disease), decreased in that span.
  • There are approximately 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s now, with that number projected to more than triple to 16,000,000 by 2050.
  • More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, providing an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care valued at nearly $234 billion.
  • Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important, allowing for individuals to receive treatment for symptoms and gain access to support services. To help identify problems early, the Alzheimer’s Association created a list of 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s and how they differ from typical age-related changes.

What MetroWest caregivers should know

Fountain and memorial in downtown Westborough /Photo by Douglas Flynn

There is support available locally. The Alzheimer’s Association has regional chapters, with the Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapter located in nearby Watertown. The association has an in-depth section on support for caregivers.

It also offers support groups throughout the area and educational programs, including an “Essential Skills for Family Caregivers” series.

You can contact the chapter at:
Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire
Address: 480 Pleasant Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Phone: 617-868-6718
Fax: 617-868-6720

The Alzheimer’s Association also now has a Central Mass office:
Address: 100 North Parkway #105
Worcester, MA 01653
Phone: 508-799-2386
Fax: 508-799-2653

24/7 Support from Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a 24/7 Helpline to provide reliable information and support to all those who need assistance. Call toll-free anytime day or night at 1-800-272-3900. More information about the Helpline can be found on alz.org.

Related information and additional web resources

MedicAlert and Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return

MedicAlert and the Alzheimer’s Association offer a 24-hour emergency response service for individuals with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia who wander or have a medical emergency. Information about the costs and features of the service are available on the Alzheimer’s Association website.