U.S. death rates from Alzheimer's disease rose by about 55 percent between 1999 and 2014—with a growing percentage of such deaths occurring at home, according to a CDC report released Thursday.
Alzheimer's—which is fatal form of dementia—ranks as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 3.6 percent of all deaths in 2014, according to CDC. It affects an estimated 5.5 million U.S. residents and is expected to affect 13.8 million U.S. residents over 65 by 2050.
For the report, researchers from CDC and Georgia State University identified Alzheimer's-related deaths by analyzing state- and county-level death certificate data in the National Vital Statistics System from 1999 to 2014.
Overall, the researchers found the national age-adjusted Alzheimer's death rate increased from 16.5 per 100,000 people—or 44,536 deaths—in 1999 to 25.4 per 100,000 people—or 93,541 deaths—in 2014.
According to the report, the majority of Alzheimer's deaths continued to occur in a nursing home or long-term care facility, but the percentage of Alzheimer's patients who died in those facilities declined from about 68 percent in 1999 to roughly 54 percent in 2014. In contrast, the percentage of Alzheimer's patients who died at home increased from about 14 percent in 1999 to nearly 25 percent in 2014.
The researchers also reported state-level trends. For example, they found age-adjusted death rates from Alzheimer's disease ranged from 7 to 29.8 per 100,000 people in 1999 and from 10.7 to 43.6 per 100,000 people in 2014. They found death rates increased significantly for 41 states and Washington, D.C., and just one state, Maine, recorded a significant decline.
In terms of age groups, Alzheimer's mortality saw the sharpest increase among individuals who were younger than 65, and those who were 85 and older. The death rate for both age groups grew by more than 60 percent during the study period.
The researchers attributed the findings to an increase in Alzheimer's diagnoses at earlier stages, better reporting of Alzheimer's-related deaths, and a decrease in deaths linked to other causes, such as heart disease and stroke.
Researchers said the findings suggest that the burden on family members or other unpaid caregivers has risen in recent years. These caregivers could benefit from programs aimed at reducing their burden of care, which could provide caregivers with education, respite care, and case management, according to CDC.
Christopher Taylor, the report's lead author, said, "As Alzheimer's disease progresses, caregiving becomes very important" and "supportive interventions can lessen the burden for caregivers and improve the quality of care for people with Alzheimer's disease" (Bachert, MedPage Today, 5/25; Steenhuysen, Reuters, 5/25; Taylor et al., CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 5/26).
5 strategies to build a successful memory disorders program
Over 5.3 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders and the number is rising. On top of increased demand, reimbursement processes fail to meet the complex needs of these patients who require multifaceted care.
These pressures are forcing providers to rethink how they organize and deliver their memory disorders services to meet this growing population's demands while providing care that is both high-quality and financially sustainable. Here are the five key strategies that a program of any scope and size can implement to provide cost-efficient Alzheimer's and dementia care.