Alzheimer’s Disease: A 2012 Financial Update

The article Yearly Cost of Alzheimer’s Tops $200 Billion published by CNN on March 8, 2012 was a good way to refresh our memory about the toll Alzheimer disease take on us. From patient and family suffering to challenges for health care professionals, the effects of this disease affecting an estimated 5.4 million Americans is not only medical in nature, it’s also an economic.  The Alzheimer’s Association’s “2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” finds that the cost of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will total $200 billion this year and is projected to increase to $1.1 trillion a year by 2050.

Medicare and Medicaid currently pay roughly 70% of the costs associated with caring for Alzheimer’s patients, which adds up to $140 billion.  But those costs do not include treating the many other chronic conditions these patients often have, some of which can be exacerbated by having this form of dementia. For example, the report says a senior with Alzheimer’s and diabetes costs Medicare 81% more than a senior citizen who only has diabetes.

Dementia can also inhibit a person’s ability to manage their other conditions and that additional complication can also drive up related costs. Compounding that, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that one of every seven patients, or 800,000 people, who have Alzheimer’s lives alone and up to half of them don’t have an identifiable caregiver. At the same time, the number of caregivers is equally staggering. According to the report, there are 15.2 million family members and friends of Alzheimer’s patients caring for more than 4 million people with the disease.  Those caregivers provide 17.4 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $200 billion dollars.

Of the ten most common causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s is the only one for which there is no cure or means of prevention.  The Alzheimer’s Association says someone is diagnosed with the disease every 68 seconds. At NHI we believe healthcare professionals can play a determinant role to educate their patients on ways to prevent this disease. While there is no definitive evidence that brain games and mental stimulation can protect the brain from Alzheimer’s, Dr. Gary Small, Director of UCLA’s Longevity Center, says there are non-genetic factors that may influence whether someone develops dementia. Nothing to loose and a lot to gain by encouraging your patient to play Sudoku!


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