The Growing Alzheimer's Crisis
2012 Dementia Costs Expected to Reach $200 Billion
In the July 2012 issue of Caring Right at Home, readers were asked the question, "Do you or someone you know provide care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia?" Forty percent of respondents said they were the primary caregiver for someone with dementia, and another thirty percent reported that they often assist in providing care for someone with dementia. Clearly, this is an important issue for the readers of Caring Right at Home!
A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association shows that Alzheimer’s care isn’t only important for families whose loved ones have been touched by the disease. The 2012 "Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures" report shows that Alzheimer’s and dementia care will cost the nation more than $200 billion by the end of 2012, with $140 billion of the funds coming from Medicare and Medicaid. The Association reports that Medicare payments for seniors with dementia are three times higher than for those without—and Medicaid payments are a staggering 19 times higher. The Association projects that these costs will continue to soar as the baby boomers age; according to president and CEO Harry Johns, "Alzheimer’s is already a growing crisis and it’s growing worse with every year."
Dementia also complicates care management of other chronic health conditions. The Association notes that Alzheimer’s acts as a "cost multiplier," resulting in more hospitalizations and longer hospital stays. For example, the report states, "A senior with Alzheimer’s and diabetes costs Medicare 81 percent more than a senior with diabetes but no Alzheimer’s. Similarly, an older individual with cancer and Alzheimer’s costs Medicare 53 percent more than a beneficiary with cancer and no Alzheimer’s."
The report also highlighted the challenges faced by the estimated 800,000 Americans with Alzheimer’s who are living alone. These patients have trouble managing money, shopping, housekeeping and taking their medications correctly, and are at greater risk of jeopardized health and death. They may not even be diagnosed until the disease is advanced, therefore missing out on treatment that could help delay the progression and effects of the disease. The report calls for increased support for these people. With more baby boomers living alone, far from family and many without children, this will become a higher priority.
Johns says, "This disease must be addressed on parallel tracks: supporting research to find treatments that cure, delay or prevent the disease; and offering assistance and support to the more than five million Americans now living with Alzheimer’s and their more than 15 million caregivers." He points out how cost-effective such research could be: "Caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias costs America $200 billion in just one year. By committing just one percent of that cost, $2 billion, to research it could begin to put the nation on a path to effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure. Given the human and economic costs of this epidemic, the potential returns on this one percent solution are extremely high."
The "2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures" report is posted on the website of the Alzheimer’s Association, where families touched by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia also can find support and information.
In each issue of Caring Right at Home, find practical information and research updates for people with dementia and the families who care for them.
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