LEXINGTON  A new survey of primary care physicians appearing in the Alzheimer’s Association 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report finds 9 in 10 primary care physicians (87%) expect to see an increase in people living with dementia during the next five years, but half (50%) say the medical profession is not prepared to meet this demand. The new report estimates there are currently more than 5 million Americans 65+ living with Alzheimer’s – a number expected to nearly triple by 2050.

The 2020 Facts and Figures report provides an in-depth look at the latest national and state-specific statistics on Alzheimer’s prevalence, incidence, mortality, costs and impact on caregivers. New disease-related statistics for Kentucky revealed the following:

•Number of Kentucky residents aged 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s: 75,000;

•Estimated number of Kentucky residents living with Alzheimer’s in 2025: 86,000;

•Percentage change: 14.7%

•Statewide deaths from Alzheimer’s disease (2018) 1,674;

•Number of Kentucky residents serving as unpaid family caregivers: 274,000;

•Total hours of unpaid care provided: 312,000,000;

•Total value of unpaid care: $4,089,000,000.

“The new Facts and Figures report shows that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias continue to be a significant burden for too many Kentucky families,” said Bari Lewis, chapter director of community outreach. “We must continue to work aggressively to advance new treatments that can stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, while also continuing to provide care and support services to help all those affected.”

 In addition to new state disease-related data, for the first time, the Facts and Figures accompanying special report, “On the Front Lines: Primary Care Physicians and Alzheimer’s Care in America,” examines the experiences, exposure, training and attitudes related to dementia care among primary care physicians (PCPs), recent medical school graduates, and recent residency program graduates, now in primary care practice.

 The report found that 82% PCPs say they are on the front lines of providing dementia care, but not all are confident in their care for patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. 

•Almost 2 in 5 (39%) report they are “never” or only “sometimes comfortable” making a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

•About one-third (27%) report they are “never” or only “sometimes comfortable” answering patient questions about Alzheimer’s or other dementias. 

•22% of all PCPs had no residency training in dementia diagnosis and care. Of the 78% who did undergo training, 65% reported that the amount was “very little.”

Ensuring PCPs are adequately prepared to deliver dementia care is critically important given a shortage of dementia care specialists. A state-by-state analysis in the report examines the number of geriatricians needed to meet future care needs of seniors living with dementia in 2050. It revealed severe shortages in several states. Kentucky is one of 14 states needing to increase the number of practicing geriatricians at least five-fold to meet the projected care needs of people living with dementia in 2050.

 In 2019, there were 34 practicing geriatricians in Kentucky according to the report. It is estimated that a 509% increase is needed in order to meet the future dementia care needs of Kentucky seniors in 2050. n

While one-third of PCPs (32%) say they refer dementia patients to specialists at least once a month, more than half (55%) say there are not enough dementia care specialists in their area to meet patient demand, a problem more common in rural areas. According to the report, 44% of PCPs practicing in large cities and 54% in suburbs reported there are not enough specialists in their area, while 63% practicing in small cities or towns and 71% in rural areas noted this challenge.  

“With the number of Kentucky residents living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias increasing, it’s critically important that we take steps to ensure primary care physicians and other providers across the state are fully prepared to meet current and future dementia care needs,” said Lewis. “The Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter is committed to helping primary care physicians and all who provide care to Kentucky residents living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

PCPs participating in the survey report that 4 in 10 of their current patients are age 65 and older, and, on average, 13% of those patients have been diagnosed with dementia. The majority of PCPs (53%) say they are answering questions related to Alzheimer’s or other dementias every few days or more. More than 9 in 10 PCPs (92%) believe patients and caregivers expect them to know the latest thinking and best practices around dementia care.

The Facts and Figures report reveals nearly all PCPs (99%) say it is important to stay current on new developments in diagnosis and care for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Areas cited as most important by PCPs include: management and treatment (83%), screening and testing (69%), diagnosis (64%), prevention (49%), family support (49%), managing dementia alongside other conditions (46%) and signs and symptoms (44%).  

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