Report: Minn. Alzheimer's cases to grow; preparation needed

A new report says Minnesotans must prepare now for the significant costs and medical demands associated with Alzheimer's disease as baby boomers retire.

An Alzheimer's Disease Working Group created by the Legislature issued seven recommendations Thursday designed to help the state get ready for the expected spike in Alzheimer's patients.

Mary Birchard, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association Minnesota - North Dakota, said one of the group's key recommendations is to identify Alzheimer's disease earlier.

"We know that when people are diagnosed earlier, they use their financial resources better," Birchard said. "They use the medical system better. Families don't go into crisis. They're able to make better financial and legal decisions."

Half the people with Alzheimer's don't receive a diagnosis, she said.

"So that when other things happen to them their lives cascade into crisis," she said. "If we can get people cared for and get the information they need, caregivers benefit from that, people with disease, we see less hospitalizations."

In the next 15 years, the number of Minnesotans with Alzheimer's disease is expected to grow to more than 135,000 people. Currently 100,000 Minnesotans suffer from Alzheimer's disease.