Assisted Living: New Study May Offer Future Breakthrough with Alzheimer Patients
The statistics are staggering when you thing about: It’s estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the number of people living with dementia will double to more than 65 million by 2030 and more than triple (115.4 million) by 2050. Moreover, in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death, with more than 5 million living with the disease today, and that number is projected to increase to 13.8 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In addition, as we cited in a previous article, in the U.S., the aggregate payments for individuals with dementia for healthcare, long-term care and hospice are projected to increase from $203 billion in 2013 to $1.2 trillion in 2050.
But now there seems to be some good news on the horizon. A new Harvard study reports that scientists have identified a protein called REST that flips genes on and off and naturally increases during aging. REST, according to the scientists, represses genes involved in the Alzheimer’s disease, and its levels are reduced in key brain areas of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or the mild cognitive impairment that precedes dementia.
In laboratory tests, REST protected brain cells from dying when exposed to a number of stresses, including the beta amyloid protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
“Our work raises the possibility that the abnormal protein aggregates associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases may not be sufficient to cause dementia; you may also need a failure of the brain’s stress response system,” said Bruce Yankner, Harvard Medical School professor of genetics and leader of the study, in a press release announcing the findings. “If true, this opens up a new area in terms of treatment possibilities for the more than 5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Yankner, who in the 1990s was the first to demonstrate the toxic effects of amyloid beta, the hallmark abnormal protein in Alzheimer’s.
The finding highlights a different approach to understanding neurodegenerative diseases: Instead of focusing on the negative changes that cause disease, researchers looked for lapses in the brain’s protective mechanisms.
“It’s an amazing idea that neurons that you’re born with will function for 100 years or more, in a very high-stress situation … until the day a person dies,” Yankner said. “The brain is a pretty tough organ and we should strive to find out what makes it so tough and capitalize on this.”
In an article appearing in the New York Times on the Harvard study experts commented that if other scientists could replicate and expand upon these findings, “the role of REST could spur development of new drugs for dementia, which has so far been virtually impossible to treat.”
Assisted Living, Nursing Homes Care for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients
In addition to family care and home health care, assisted living and nursing home facilities are caring for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. There are some Assisted Living residences that specialize in housing people with the Alzheimer’s disease, and others that, while not specializing in this area, are equipped to handle the special needs of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Those with advanced Alzheimer’s require full-time medical personnel and often reside at a skilled nursing facility.
Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing insurance for assisted living and nursing home facilities. We provide coverage on a national basis and can secure a comprehensive program that includes General Liability, Professional, high-limit Excess Liability, Property, Automobile, Crime, Workers Compensation, EPLI, D&O, and much more. Please give us a call at 877.226.1027 to find out more about our program.
Sources: WHO, Alzheimer’s Association, Huffington Post, Boston Globe, New York Times