A Florida physician who specializes in geriatrics and memory care warned a Florida Senate committee that Alzheimer’s disease is both a present and a looming problem for the state.
"Please make no mistake -- we are in the midst of an epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease," Rosemary Laird, a geriatrician at the Centre for Senior Health in Winter Park, told the Senate Health Policy Committee on March 14. "Currently, half a million Floridians have Alzheimer’s disease, and in less than 10 years, a 40 percent growth rate means that another 200,000 Floridians will develop this devastating illness."
Laird was testifying in favor of SB 1050, a bill sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Longwood, to establish a memory disorder clinic at Florida Hospital in Orange County.
Laird’s office did not return a call, but we were able to find statistics that closely matched what she told the committee.
They were cited in "2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures," a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, the leading advocacy group for patients with the severe memory-loss condition and their families and caregivers.
The report, in Table 4, offers projections for state-by-state numbers of residents with Alzheimer’s in 2017 and 2025. For Florida, it lists 520,000 people with the disease in 2017 and 720,000 for 2025, a growth rate of 38.5 percent.
Rounded off, those are essentially identical to the figures Laird cited.
However, it’s worth noting that the table cites these figures as "estimates" (for 2017) and "projected" (for 2025).
The numbers in the report are footnoted to a study published in the academic journal Neurology in May 2013. The authors used Alzheimer’s diagnosis statistics from 2010 to create estimates of how many cases would be expected in future years as far out as 2050.
Given the margins of error in estimates and projections, and given the difficulty of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease in patients, it’s a slight overreach for Laird to frame these as hard numbers of Floridians who have the disease today. They are a useful yardstick and were published in a respected scientific journal, but her phrasing suggests too high a degree of certainty about the numbers who have the disease today.
"It is accurate to say that the numbers are estimates, or as we put it in the report, ‘projections,’ " said Laura Cilmi, a spokeswoman for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Laird said, "Currently, half a million Floridians have Alzheimer’s disease, and in less than 10 years, a 40 percent growth rate means that another 200,000 Floridians will develop this devastating illness."
These numbers are sourced to a credible scientific paper, though it’s worth noting that the paper deals in estimates and projections, rather than hard, verifiable numbers. We rate this statement Mostly True.