Alzheimer's rates expected to rise in Missouri

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COLUMBIA - According to recent studies, Alzheimer's disease cases are expected to rise in Missouri.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are currently 110,000 cases of Alzheimer's in Missouri. That number is expected to increase 18 percent to 130,000 by 2025.

Columbia resident Gary Mueller is married to his wife, Kim, who was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's in March 2014.

"One day she can do something, and the next day she can't. Sometimes you just have to stop, take a breath, realize it's not her it's the disease," Mueller said.

There are currently about 200,000 cases of people like Kim Mueller who have the disease under the age of 65. One MU associate professor with the MU School of Medicine said this trend will increase.

"It's devastating. You take somebody who is still in the prime of their life and sentence them to a cognitive decline, and it is extremely difficult on everybody," Dr. David Beversdorf said. 

The disease is the most common form of dementia and is the sixth leading cause of death in America. Two out of every three Alzheimer's cases are women and currently, only one in four cases have been diagnosed. 

Janie Bonham, the early stage consultant for the Alzheimer's Association called the disease "a growing problem," and said it is so difficult to deal with because it is so complex how it occurs.

Beversdorf said cardiovascular health and diet play a role, but the cause of particular cases of Alzheimer's is more than just one or two factors.

"In most cases, there are some risk factor genes that increase your chances," Beversdorf said. "There are genes that are very very high risk, around 100 percent if you live long enough, of developing Alzheimer's disease."

Beversdorf said he expects rates of Alzheimer's in Missouri and worldwide to increase because people are living longer and the Baby Boomer generation is reaching what he said is a "high-risk" age for the disease.

Bonham said she has a personal connection to the disease with her mother who died in 2008.

"My mother had Alzheimer's disease. I totally went into denial. I live around the corner from the Alzheimer's Association, drove by it every day and never stopped until the day after her funeral," Bonham said. "That's probably what has given me the passion that I have because if only I would have stopped and connected with the Alzheimer's Association, if only I would have gotten some information, I could have maybe made my momma's life a little easier."

Mueller said small things are what makes it difficult to deal with his wife having the disease.

"This person who could do so many things before just can't anymore. It's simple things like following a recipe or, we have some horses, and she me how to deal with the horses. Now, she doesn't understand how to deal with the horses, and there are a thousand examples I could give.

Mueller said the personal connection to the disease makes him hope for a cure.

"I think people are becoming more aware of the disease, and that will be a big bonus because this disease is going to cost this country a fortune," Mueller said.

Currently, the cost of caring for patients nationwide with the disease is around $226 billion, and Beversdorf said this number will increase as cases rise.

The help line for the Alzheimer's Association is 1-800-272-3900 at all hours.