Dec 27, 2017 by Stephanie Howe - Owner, Comfort Keepers
Dementia and Alzheimer's Care: Bill Gates' Donation of $50 Million
“This fact—that people are living longer than ever before—should always be a wonderful thing. But what happens when it’s not?” quoted Bill Gates in his recent post titled “Why I’m Digging Deep into Alzheimer’s”.
Bill Gates recently donated $50 million for Alzheimer’s research from his own funds. In the past too, he donated money to fund research for other diseases; however, he has a more personal connection with the Alzheimer’s as many of his family members have had the disease and thus, he extended the help to facilitate the researchers find possible treatment to the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of 60% to 70% of cases of dementia that is broadly defined as a category of brain-related diseases. It leads to a gradual deterioration in people’s ability to think and remember things, affecting their daily functioning. The gravity of the impact of the disease can be understood by the following facts:
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. It leads to more deaths than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
More than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer in the United States, and this figure is expected to rise to 16 million by the year 2050.
Over 5 million people live with the disease in the United States.
A new case of Alzheimer’s is diagnosed every 66 seconds.
According to a recent study conducted by The Alzheimer’s Association, the leading voluntary health organization, more than 15 million people provide unpaid care a form of Dementia care services, for people affected by this condition. In 2016, these senior caregivers provided an estimated 18.2 billion hours of care valued at over $230 billion. In 2017, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $259 billion. By 2050, these costs could rise o as much as $1.1 trillion.
These statistics emphasize how Alzheimer is turning into a global crisis and why we need to invest in this area. Bill Gates suggests five areas to improve the situation:
1. Understand Alzheimer’s – While we have advanced treatments and revolutionized solutions for physical diseases, the understanding of Alzheimer’s is still limited. The cause and the varying probability of the onset of the disease are poorly understood.
We also lack knowledge about the gradual progression of the disease as a person ages. We need a better understanding of its underlying causes and components.
2. Detect and diagnose earlier – Time plays a crucial role in any treatment. Sadly, in most cases, Alzheimer is detected only in the later stages of the disease.
The existing cognitive tests show high discrepancies and thus cannot be relied upon completely. We need a measure for the accurate and timely detection of the disease.
3. Prevent the disease – In the long term, we need to look at approaches to completely prevent the disease. For this reason, funding research will enable the researchers to experiment with different ideas, drugs, or treatments that may stop or slow down the progression of the disease.
4. Increase participation in clinical trials – Given the lack of awareness about clinical trials and reliable diagnostic, research often suffers from the lack of volunteers or participants who are a vital part of a clinical trial. In most cases, people are not detected in the early stages of the disease and it becomes difficult to observe the initial stage of the disease. We need to have a mechanism that facilitates the selection of participants, enabling faster trials.
5. Effective use of statistics – If the data from different studies and sources are compiled, it may help researchers in their observations. They may find some correlations or patterns in the factors such as age, genes, lifestyle, leading them to draw some conclusions based on the information.
Bill Gates shares his motive behind the donation by stating – “I want to support the brilliant minds doing this work. As a first step, I’ve invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund—a private fund working to diversify the clinical pipeline and identify new targets for treatment.”
We hope that this step brings a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s so people don’t just live long but also enjoy their later years with better hospital and home care services.
If you’re looking to find out more about dementia or Alzheimer's care, give Comfort Keepers a call at 732-521-1777.