PORTSMOUTH – The numbers are staggering.
Nearly one in three people who die each year has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Nationally, more than 5 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s with that number expected to increase to 16 million by 2050.
In New Hampshire, an estimated 23,000 individuals over the age of 65 have the disease, with that number estimated to increase to 32,000 by 2025. That’s an increase of more than 39 percent in the next nine years.
The costs involved in caring for those with the disease are even more staggering.
The current cost nationally is estimated to be $236 billion and the Medicaid cost in New Hampshire is currently $225 million. Nationally, the anticipated costs involved in caring for those with Alzheimer’s in 2050 will be $1.1 trillion, so the expected impact on Medicaid in New Hampshire by mid-century will be well in excess of $1 billion.
In addition to those suffering from the disease there are those family members and caregivers who are also affected. In New Hampshire that number is estimated at 66,000 people.
On Sunday, about 1,000 of those who have been affected by Alzheimer’s either as caregivers, patients or families who have lost loved ones to this disease gathered at the Little Harbour School for a three-mile walk through the city to raise funds to fight what is now the sixth leading cause of death in this state.
“This is the 10th year we’ve held the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Portsmouth,” said Melissa Grenier, the association’s New Hampshire regional manager. “We have held the walk here at the Little Harbour School for the past two years and at Strawbery Banke before that.”
The goal is to raise $206,000 this year to fund research and support families who are caring for loved ones with the disease, Grenier said.
“We’ve have met our goal every year that we’ve had this event and I expect we will meet or exceed it again this year,” she said. “Everyone knows someone who has this disease, is caring for someone with it or has lost someone to it.”
This was the fourth year that Melissa Smith of Wakefield has walked to end Alzheimer’s.
“I worked in a dementia unit and I want to end this disease,” Smith said.
This year she brought along her friend, Peter Rizzo, of Rochester. Aside from supporting Smith, Rizzo said he had his own reasons for walking this year.
“I had two family members who struggled with this disease,” he said. “I know the pain involved.”
It was the fifth year that Bonnie Knox of Hampstead was walking to cure Alzheimer’s. She was part of “Team Fina,” which included three generations of her family.
“We’re here to honor our mother, who passed away two years ago from the disease,” Knox said.
For David Richards and the eight-member “Team SWEAT” from Sanford, Maine, this was the first Alzheimer’s walk they were participating in.
“We’re walking to remember my grandfather, Earl Congram, and our friend, Ray Couch,” Richards said.
Oceanside Rehabilitation Hospital nurses Amanda Hart, Karen Salva and Angela O’Brien were also walking for the first time Sunday. Aside from the work they do caring for dementia patients, Hart said she had lost her dad to the disease and Salva had lost her grandfather.
All three were dressed in ballerina costumes and the purple that represents the fight against Alzheimer’s.
“We’re here dressed in our purple and to have fun,” Salva said. “We’re supporting the fight.”
For information on joining the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia, visit alz.org.
For those struggling with the disease or caring for someone with it, a 24/7 support line is available at (800) 272-3900.