As Alzheimer’s Rates Soar, Concern Rises Over Costs

Our nation is currently struggling fiscally, and many programs that the elderly of our society count on are at risk of reduced funding. Right now, about 70% of Alzheimer’s costs are billed to Medicare and Medicaid. With Alzheimer’s and dementia cases set to increase by 500% in the next 40 years, how will we afford the care needed? Families must have the uncomfortable conversations about future care and costs with aging loved ones before issues arise to ensure they receive proper and dignified care, should something as detrimental as Alzheimer’s afflict them.

Concerns are increasing over the nation’s ability to afford Alzheimer’s care and support systems.

New reports that the number of Alzheimer’s cases in the USA will likely triple to 13.8 million by 2050 are raising concerns about the nation’s ability to afford care.

Care for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will increase 500% by 2050, reaching $1.1 trillion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This is in 2012 dollars. About 70% of costs for Alzheimer’s care are billed to Medicare and Medicaid.

Patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will spend three times more on health care than patients with other types of illnesses, the association says. Medicare patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias spent $43,847 on health care and long-term care services, compared to $13,879 spent by patients without those illnesses, the association said in a 2012 report.

For government health care programs already facing economic strain, these estimates are daunting, researchers and advocates say.

“If you think you’re going to solve our fiscal entitlement process without addressing one of the underlying causes (Alzheimer’s costs) you’re not getting to the heart of the problem,” says Robert Egge, vice president of public affairs for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s is an incurable, degenerative brain-wasting disease that robs a person of memory, eventually erasing personality and making even routine tasks such as dressing and bathing impossible. They also spend more time hospitalized than people without these illnesses.

“The bottom line is when you have a chronic condition and you add dementia, you have higher costs,” says Julie Bynum, a physician and associate director of the Center for Health Policy at Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., who gathered data for the Alzheimer’s Association report.

“They can’t self-manage their medications or monitor their diets and watch out for things like how much salt or sugar they’re eating. If they also have diabetes or hypertension, two other conditions common in the older population, they need others to take care of them,” she says.

A federally-funded report published last week in the medical journal Neurology said the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to rise from 5 million to 13.8 million by 2050.

Many costs associated with Alzheimer’s care are not reimbursed. Out-of-pocket costs for a family with a loved one who has dementia were $8,216 compared to $2,500 for patients with other types of conditions, according to a report last week in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

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