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CDC: California Alzheimer's Deaths Jump 87 Percent Since 1999

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CDC: California Alzheimer's Deaths Jump 87 Percent Since 1999
CDC: California Alzheimer's Deaths Jump 87 Percent Since 1999 GUEST: Mary Ball, president, Alzheimer's San Diego

this is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen CavanaughCavanaugh. I report a significant increase in Alzheimer's deficit since the turn-of-the-century is catching a lot of public attention. The centers for disease control finds that the race from Alzheimer's increased 55% nationwide from 1999 to 2014 and over the same period of time, Alzheimer's deaths increased in California by 87%. Experts say there are many reasons for that jump including an aging population and better diagnoses but there's no doubt that more patients and their families are bearing the burden of this fatal disease. Joining me is is Mary Ball, President of old timers San Diego and welcome welcome to the show. Thank you. What do you attribute this rather dramatic rise in Alzheimer's deaths in the recent CDC report? There are a number of factors factors. More and more people are developing Alzheimer's disease. Age is number 1 risk factor in as people are living longer they are much more likely to develop this disease. It is a fatal disease and so what people are dying from Alzheimer's disease as well. I also believe that government is much more aware of Alzheimer's disease and physicians and public health agencies are paying greater attention to accurate would be to decoding so really reflecting what is the true cause of death for someone once they passed away. Apparel in the past people who who had been suffering from Alzheimer's for years listed as a dying from heart attack or from pneumonia without mention of Alzheimer's. What is important to Alzheimer's is listed as the cause of death? From a public health perspective is important that we have accurate information in terms of what's causing people steps than from a families perspective if they are cured for someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease for eight to 10 years it is important that that disease is reflected on their death certificate. The Columbia ballistic of Alzheimer's is something that affects one's mental capacity. It is also a physical illness and it has fiscal ramifications for somebody's heart and lungs and breathing. When Alzheimer's starts out with a start out as short-term memory loss but as the disease progresses people lose fiscal option. There There our often lose the ability to walk. They lose the ability to talk. They lose the ability to swallow than parts of the brain that regulate breathing and the heart shut down so that cause of death might be heart attack but it was really driven by Alzheimer's disease. VeriWise, California seeing such a big increase, 87% says the CDC compared to the rest of the country. And California I think people when they live here do you want to stay here, they want to retire here. California has also had a state Alzheimer's plan for a couple years so there's more awareness amongst the medical community about Alzheimer's disease and there may be in other states and I think that we are seeing a lot of the cost of the disease getting a lot of attention from local government and state governments sweating there's a number of factors why we are seeing a growth in people with the disease in California and people dying from the disease in California. Another funny from the report the number of people with Alzheimer's who died at home has risen from 40% to 25%. Why are more Alzheimer's patients dying at home instead of at hospitals? We work with families agent every day at Alzheimer's San San Diego who are carrying for a loved one with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia and one of the first questions they ask is what is Medicare point to cover? In caring for my loved one? And what people are shocked to find out is a Medicare covers a very little because Alzheimer's is a disease where people most likely need supervision. There is no medical treatment to cure the disease or slow the disease and so that supervision, that care typically is done by family members.. It is not surprising that more and more people are dying at home because they are cared for at home by family members. A few years. San Diego County officials announced a major emphasis on providing help for Alzheimer's patients and their families. What's been the result of that? There've been a number of work efforts through the Alzheimer's project. I think the County as the regions public of agency has done a terminus amount to raise awareness about Alzheimer's disease. For so long people with Alzheimer's and the people who love and care for them have been isolated and often felt alone and to have the regions government talking about this disease is so significant to families. So to the Alzheimer's Project they created what's called a clinical the clinical Roundtable to really focus on what are the key standards for diagnoses and medical care for someone with this disease because we have found that less than half of the time do people get an accurate diagnosis from there doctor. The counties but a real effort into educating physicians and making sure they understand how to diagnose this disease and how to connect them with community resources like Alzheimer's San Diego that can help them. There's been role focus on promoting Alzheimer's research and getting people into clinical trials because funding is just one piece of Alzheimer's research. We've got to have volunteers participate in trials trials. Through what they called the care Roundtable this meant a lot of discussion about what support systems are needed for family caregivers out there in the community because there's going to be more and more people with the disease and more people caring for them so at some point in time there's got to be a better support system to the County and through community providers. Finally, you said there's no cure and no real treatment at this time, is there any hope on the horizon for a treatment? Is anything look promising? You are in San Diego we are so lucky to have some of the best Alzheimer's researchers in the world and what makes San San Diego a little differently is all those researchers collaborate together so we do a lot of work with the Salk Institute, UCSD, -- medical discovery Institute about sharing ideas and furthering research. It is not a strong long as we would all like it to be but there's definitely progress being made right here in San Diego towards a cure. I've been speaking with to the, prison of Alzheimer's San San Diego. Mary, thank you. Thank you.

Death rates from Alzheimer's disease nationwide increased 55 percent between 1999 and 2014, the Centers for Disease Control reported last week, with California deaths rising 87 percent.

There are many reasons for those jumps, according to the research, including an aging population and better diagnoses.

"The number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s is skyrocketing because people are living longer," said Alzheimer's San Diego president Mary Ball. "I also believe there’s a lot more awareness, so you see a lot more attention to accurate morbidity coding. Doctors are better at listing Alzheimer’s as a cause of death. Alzheimer’s affects the part of the brain that regulates breathing, swallowing, the heart, etc. So your primary cause of death might be a heart attack or pneumonia, but is a result of the Alzheimer’s disease."

The study also found that the number of people with Alzheimer’s who die at home has risen from 14 percent to 25 percent.

Ball joins KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday to discuss San Diego County's ongoing efforts to help Alzheimer's patients and their families.