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This Alzheimer’s documentary is an ‘urgent wake-up call’

Daisy Duarte, one of the caregivers featured in a PBS documentary, takes care of her mother, Sonja, as she struggles with the effects of Alzheimer's disease.
Daisy Duarte, one of the caregivers featured in a PBS documentary, takes care of her mother, Sonja, as she struggles with the effects of Alzheimer's disease.

If you care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or know someone who does, even if you’re simply concerned about your memory, a new documentary airing Wednesday on PBS is a must watch.

"Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts," scheduled to air at 10 p.m. on WPBT2, is touted by its makers as "an urgent wake-up call about the national threat posed by Alzheimer’s disease," a progressive, degenerative brain disease that destroys memory and thinking.

More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s and that number is projected to jump 55 percent by 2030. By 2050, 14 million Americans could have Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association — much of the rise due to the growing number of aging baby boomers, since Alzheimer’s tends to be age-related. The costs to care for these patients could exceed $1.1 trillion.

The filmmakers — and experts — predict Alzheimer’s will be both a family tragedy and a societal one. Because it progresses so slowly, it’s the most expensive medical condition in the U.S. and considered one of the most costly diseases in medical history.

“Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts,” produced by Twin Cities PBS, features interviews with caregivers, doctors and researchers. It seeks to draw attention to what it considers one of the most critical public health crises facing society. As the 73 to 75 million baby boomers head into prime risk-age, the consequences to families and the country are dire if a medical breakthrough is not discovered for this incurable disease.

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, the vice chair of Neurology and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, calls it the biggest epidemic in medical history. So far experts have not been able to discover what cause Alzheimer’s or how to slow it or prevent it early on. In fact, because the disease can’t be diagnosed until there are actual symptoms, some put the number of people with Alzheimer’s at closer to 25 million.

“That’s why we say it’s an urgent situation, a situation of panic,” Tanzi said.

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