Extent of the Problem

There are currently three times the number of new Alzheimer’s disease cases compared to HIV/AIDS — that is one new case every four seconds.

The world is now facing an epidemic of dementia. By 2050, it is estimated that China will have a population of demented people equal to the current population of California (37 million). Almost 5.5 million Americans suffer from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Among the top ten causes of death in the U.S., the dementias are the only ones that do not have a cure.

The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age. At age 65, 1 in 20 people develop the disease. By age 75, 1 in 10 have Alzheimer’s. At age 85, 1 in every 2 people becomes demented.

However, neurodegenerative diseases and the dementias are not solely limited to older people, as once thought. Posttraumatic FTD has been found in members of our Armed Forces, veterans and contact sport athletes. The number of military service members and veterans suffering from PTSD who also have an underlying FTD is unknown. More than 800,000 Vietnam veterans carry the diagnosis of PTSD, and more than 200,000 Iraq-Afghanistan combatants and veterans suffer from the disease as well. Not surprisingly, PTSD can manifest psychiatric symptoms months, years and even decades after initiating events, such as concussion, occur.

Every day, one American service person commits suicide. Every day in the U.S., 1,300 new cases of dementia are diagnosed. By mid-century, the world will have more elders than children. Further delay in the development of effective therapeutics for these illnesses will have catastrophic results not only for the victims and their families, but also for local and national economies.

In California Alone

We are in the midst of a dementia epidemic. With the aging of the Baby Boomers, the number of Alzheimer’s patients will triple, reaching nearly 14 million over the next three decades. Nowhere is the threat more strongly felt than in California, which has the largest number of nursing home residents in the country. In 2008, 10,098 California residents died as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. By 2025, California is projected to have 660,000 people over the age of 65 with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The "graying" of California will have serious consequences for the state's future. Over the next 20 years, the cost of caring for California's Alzheimer's patients is expected to double from $50 billion to nearly $100 billion. The loss of human potential implied by these numbers is incalculable. The loss of productivity will also be immense.

Alzheimer's patients rely on friends and family for daily support. In California, there are more than 1.5 million unpaid caregivers serving loved ones with dementia. The value of the services they provide is expected to rise to more than $72 billion by 2030. This will further strain California's overburdened economy.

Californians cannot sit by as this epidemic harms our households and our economy. To ensure the future of our state, we must contribute to the search for cures for Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.