PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A new report projects a jump in Alzheimer’s cases across the country by 2050 and the impact the disease has on caregivers amid a shortage of memory care specialists in the workforce, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The report states there are nearly 7 million Americans over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s, a number projected to grow to nearly 13 million by 2050.
The disease is prevalent in Oregon, with over 69,000 people living with Alzheimer’s, said Lori Stanton of the Alzheimer’s Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington. By 2050, Stanton says over 84,000 Oregonians are expected to have the disease.
Along with the rise in cases, the report shows how the disease is impacting caregivers — including unpaid caregivers such as friends or family members who may experience depression or physical ailments as they care for someone with the disease.
In Oregon, there are over 181,000 caregivers, including family members and in-home paid caregivers, Stanton said. However, with the projected rise in cases, Stanton shared concerns amid nationwide workforce gaps to care for those with Alzheimer’s.
“Unfortunately, we’re going to be experiencing a huge gap, a gap that’s going to be unseen in any other sector of the workforce. So, we’re going to need an additional 1.2 million people who are going to be paid caregivers,” Stanton said.
The report says the workforce shortage will have broad implications for those seeking memory care including delayed access to health care professionals, diagnosis and treatment. The Alzheimer’s Association states the shortage was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and burnout among workers.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 20 states that are described as “‘dementia neurology deserts,'” that project fewer than 10 neurologists per 10,000 people in 2025.
The report also points to the impact on family members who are caregivers as Stanton explained, “we really encourage caregivers, as much as they’re able, to still take time for themselves to find respite, to join a support group.”
Stanton highlighted free programs through the Alzheimer’s Association along with a 24-hour helpline available at 1-800-272-3900, staffed by social workers for caregivers to find support.