When I educate people about Alzheimer’s and dementia, one of the first things I share is the prediction that dementia will impact 1 in 2 families in just fifteen years, with the increasing prevalence these diseases have in the US. And when I say this, people invariably gasp. No! How can this be? This is awful!
It IS awful. But no one has ever challenged me on it. Since I am interviewed more and more as a dementia caregiver trainer and consultant, I decided I’d better be able to explain my basis in case someone ever did. I based my math on authoritative sources, like US Census Bureau, The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, and the Alzheimer’s Association to build my logic case below. It’s kind of alot to take in, so I have also presented it pictorially in this infographic.
One in Five Families Living with Dementia Today
5.8 million people are living with dementia today. There are currently 128.6 households in the US. Therefore, on average, at least one in every 22 US households currently includes a person living with dementia.
Each US household is comprised of 2.6 members and each family averages 3.1 members. Simply speaking, let’s consider this three family members per household. 16 million family (unpaid) caregivers support the 5.8 million people living with dementia today. This means that every person living with dementia has 2.8 caregivers, on average. Let’s agree to consider this three people.
Who are the caregivers?
One third of all dementia caregivers are 65+. Over half of dementia caregivers are taking care of a parent. Two in three dementia caregivers lives with the person in their care. Theoretically, if a person living with dementia is living with two caregivers and at least one is 65+, those caregivers are most likely a spouse and an adult child. A second adult child lives separately.
The oldest members of the baby boomer generation turned 75 in 2019. Fifty years ago they were of family forming age. According to the 1970 US Census, the number of “own children” under age 18 living in the average US household was 2.3. Conservatively, that’s two children per household. For argument’s sake let’s say that, of these two children, at least one of them has children who are now adults, forming their own households.
At a family level, then, every diagnosed dementia affects four households (that person’s home, another caregiver’s home, two adult grandchildren with their own homes).
At the community level, if one person with dementia is living in every 22 US households, and every case of dementia affects four homes, then one in every five US households is affected today.
One in Two Families Living with Dementia by 2035
The single greatest risk factor for dementia is advancing age. Medical advances continue to extend life expectancies, while the oldest Baby Boomers – the largest US age group – just begin reaching 75 in 2020.
Current projections estimate that by the year 2035, 10 million people will develop dementia in the US. Among the approximate 140 million US households (age 25+) projected by 2035, one in every 14 dwellings will be home to someone living with dementia.
About 87% of all diagnosed cases of dementia will be in people 75+, an increase from 83% in 2019. As the population of Americans with dementia ages, more of their descendants will reach age 25 and begin forming their own households and families. It’s reasonable to expect that a 75 year old would have at least one adult grandchild, and likely more. 75 – 84 year olds are expected to represent about 48% of all dementias in 2035. Those 85+, representing about 39% of all dementias, are extremely likely to have four adult grandchildren based on past and projected US family size.
Based on these historic and predictive data, each case of dementia is expected to impact six US households by 2035. Therefore, just 15 years in the future, dementia will impact one in every two homes.
Download the infographic here.
 Alzheimer’s Association, 2019 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, 19.
 “Average number of own children under 18 in families with children in the United States from 1960 to 2019” Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/718084/average-number-of-own-children-per-family/ (March 1, 2020).
 “Households and Families 2010”, US Census, https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-14.pdf (March 1, 2020), Table 2.
 2019 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, 31.
 Liesi E. Hebert, ScD, Jennifer Weuve, ScD, Paul A. Scherr, PhD, ScD, and Denis A. Evans, MD, “Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010–2050) estimated using the 2010 census”, Neurology (May 7, 2013), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719424.
 Daniel McCue, “Household Projections”, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Appendix Table A-1: Summary of JCHS 2018 Household Projections by Age, Race/Ethnicity, and Household Type, (November 29, 2018), https://www.jchs.harvard.edu//research-areas/working-papers/updated-household-projections-2015-2035-methodology-and-results.
 Hebert, et al. Table 1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719424/table/T1/?report=objectonly.