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Alzheimer's Association releases new national, state data

The number of Mainers living with Alzheimer's is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2025 from 2020 figures.

MAINE, USA — A total of 6.7 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's, according to a report by the Alzheimer's Association.

The annual "Facts and Figures" report highlights national and state trends related to the disease.

The numbers from our state show there were 29,000 Mainers aged 65 or older living with Alzheimer's in 2020, and that number is expected to grow to 35,000 by 2025, which is a 20 percent increase.

"We know dementia cases are on the rise, and that if we don’t do something to change the trajectory, it will double by mid-century," Drew Wynan, the executive director of the Alzheimer's Association, Maine Chapter, said.

Wyman, like many people working under the association's umbrella across the country, had his own experience with the disease. His grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when Wyman was 10 years old.

An issue Wyman said he discovered then and still remains present now, is there is a stigma around Alzheimer's.

"Once there is a reduction of stigma, then you maybe see an increase in funding and support, then consequently you see a reduction in cases," he added.

More funding and support could soon be on the way for Mainers. Jill Carney is the director of public policy at the Maine chapter of the association and said she is working with the Maine CDC on a new state plan.

"That’s going to be a significant moment for us, we haven’t had a state plan since 2011, so it’s been long overdue," she said.

The extra federal dollars can help incentivize more workers to enter and stay in this specific field of health care.

Credit: Alzheimer's Association

The 2023 "Facts and Figures" report shows there are just 36 geriatricians in Maine, as of 2021.

The state needs to increase trained workers by eight percent in order to meet the demand for new patients with the disease, according to the report.

Dr. Nicole Purcell is a neurologist and senior director of clinical practice for the Alzheimer's Association. She said people should have conversations with their doctors about their cognition and memory as soon as possible.

"Individuals prefer to have discussions about their cognition and their memory with friends and family as opposed to discussing this with their primary care physician," she added. "And if you’re concerned, take a loved one or a friend who can help explain your symptoms to your doctor and that may make it easier for you."

Dr. Purcell also said new treatments can help patients who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the early stages, which highlights the importance to have open conversations with your doctors.

Both Wyman and Caney said the Maine Alzheimer's Association chapter is heading to Washington D.C. next week to meet with lawmakers to advocate for more federal support.

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