Alzheimer's in Alaska: Understanding the impact

The journey of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia is filled with challenges, both emotional and logistical. The recent release of the Alzheimer's Association's 2024 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report sheds crucial light on the pressing issues faced by those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers in Alaska and nationwide.

The report paints a stark picture: 6.9 million seniors in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s, with 8,400 in Alaska alone. The financial burden is staggering, projected to reach $360 billion this year nationwide. Yet, perhaps even more concerning are the invisible costs borne by family caregivers, who provided 39 million hours of unpaid care just in Alaska.

But beyond the financial strain lies a deeper toll on caregivers’ well-being. The report reveals that caregivers of individuals with dementia are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. In Alaska, over half of the 25,000 family caregivers reported at least one chronic condition and nearly 28% reported depression. Moreover, a staggering 74% of caregivers across the nation expressed concerns about maintaining their own health.

The emotional and physical toll of caregiving cannot be overstated. Dementia caregivers nationwide report high levels of stress, with concerns ranging from the financial burden to the practical challenges of coordinating care and securing appointments. Yet, despite these challenges, many caregivers feel left to navigate the complex healthcare system alone. Only half have sought help from healthcare professionals.

Crucially, the report highlights the overwhelming demand for navigation services among caregivers. From 24/7 helplines to assistance with coordinating care, the need is clear. Yet, alarmingly, many healthcare organizations lack clearly defined processes for dementia care coordination. In 2021, there were only eight geriatricians in the state of Alaska, a number that needs to increase 287% to meet the workforce and healthcare demands by 2050.

As Elizabeth Bolling, Alzheimer’s Association Public Policy Manager, aptly puts it, "Alaskans would benefit from dementia care navigation programs, offering support tailored to both the patients and the caregivers’ needs." It’s time to take action and support Alaskans facing Alzheimer’s. By coming together, we can empower and support caregivers, alleviate their burden, and ultimately improve the quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and their families.

Learn more about the 2024 Facts & Figures report at

Amie Northagen is the marketing communications manager for Alzheimer’s Association, Alaska and Washington state chapters.