Dementia: The Growing Crisis in West Virginia

Executive Summary
Overview of Dementia
Types of Dementia
Prevalence of Dementia
Cost of Dementia
Risk Factors for Dementia
Prevention of Dementia
Diagnosis of Dementia
Treatment of Dementia
Diagnosis in Hospital Records
Dementia Mortality
Dementia Research

Hospitalization Rates by County of Residence

Mortality Rates by Type of Dementia and Gender

Dementia Mortality by County of Residence

Credits and Acknowledgements


Research on dementia treatment and prevention continues as the burden of dementia increases. This report has touched on just a few of the studies and findings to date in order to illustrate the extensive work that is being done. Mental health groups, universities, medical schools, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Aging, numerous dementia and Alzheimer’s organizations, and many other entities are working to discover ways to improve the lives of dementia patients and their families through treatment, behavioral management, and delayed onset or slower progression of disease. Study sites around the country are recruiting participants from minority populations including African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans to better understand the disease mechanism and burden on specific populations.

Current research has resulted in a growing number of pharmacological treatments, better diagnostic tests, and the hope of an eventual vaccine to prevent the disease or even reverse the damage in existing disease. Future clarification of the pathogenesis of the illness is occurring, resulting in a new generation of treatments. With the continued and successful refinement of gene therapy and neural transplantation techniques will come new breakthroughs. This cannot happen too soon. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have the potential to overwhelm our health care systems if we do not significantly delay or prevent disease onset; this will most certainly happen in West Virginia, a state with the oldest population in the nation. To quote Ed Duling, a West Virginia doctor who retired in 2004 after more than half a century in practice, “Senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is the big thing that’s developed that we didn’t have before. That’s because people are living longer. Used to be, people died in their 50s. Now they live up into their 70s and 80s, and they’re outliving their brains” (75). The challenge now is to find the key to keeping our brains healthy throughout our life spans.

Hard Copy Published February 2005