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Alzheimer's Disease Third-Leading Cause of Death in WA

About 107,000 people have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia in the state of Washington. (pixabay)
About 107,000 people have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia in the state of Washington. (pixabay)
May 20, 2016

SEATTLE - Alzheimer's disease is the third-leading age-adjusted cause of death in the state of Washington and kills here at the highest rate in the nation, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts analysis released this week.

However, state officials are not taking this alarming data lying down. The Dementia Action Collaborative, created by lawmakers in 2014, met for the first time in April. Bob LeRoy, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association and a member of the collaborative, said the group hopes to use available resources to address the disease.

"We think we can do a lot by more effectively leveraging existing programs and resources," he said, "and that's really where we're going to focus our efforts for the balance of the current year."

The collaborative is a diverse group, made up of state agency officials, members of the governor's office, home-care providers and even people who have the disease. It will meet again in September.

LeRoy said the group could bring recommendations to legislators during the 2017 session if members find their short-term policies have been effective. One of the issues at which the collaborative is looking is cost. LeRoy said ballooning prices should motivate the public to focus on the disease.

"Even if you're fortunate enough not to be touched by the disease in your family," he said, "you're going to have to help pay for the cost of care of those that are."

If current trends continue, he said, the cost to the federal health-care system is enough to bankrupt it. However, Alzheimer's is a relatively newly researched disease. While there doesn't appear to be a prevention method on the immediate horizon, LeRoy said, researchers have learned heart health is connected to the disease, and active lifestyles can help preserve quality of life.

The analysis is online at pewtrusts.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA