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The Cost of Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease

a microscope stock imageDementia and memory loss are becoming an increasing health concern for the elderly, matching heart disease and cancer.

In fact, recent research shows that the number of people afflicted with dementia will more than double by the year of 2040, a rate rarely observed in chronic diseases. Not only are these rates alarming, but the costs to care for those afflicted with dementia are higher than any other chronic disease. In a recent study conducted by the RAND Corporation the rate at which dementia is expected to increase provides insight into the demand for home health aids in the industry who are experienced with dementia patients.

The RAND Corporation study provides support for studies previously conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association, and reinforces the growing need for aides who can work with patients that have dementia. Results from the study show that approximately 15 percent of people 71 years or older have been diagnosed with dementia – nearly 3.8 million people. By the year 2040, it is expected that almost 9.1 million will be diagnosed with the chronic disease. Not only is it telling of the urgency to increase dementia research, but also increase awareness of the severity of the disease and how to assist loved ones through the stages of the dementia.

Not only are there high emotional costs or the families of dementia patients, but direct health care expenses for dementia are among the highest. Compared with the cost of cancer at $77 billion and heart disease at $102 billion, dementia was estimated to cost $109 billion in 2010. The average health care cost for dementia patients ranged from $50 to $106 billion, depending on the type of health aide that was used as well as the cost of family members giving up careers to take care of elderly parents, loved ones, and/or family members. A large portion of these costs were allocated to assisted living facilities or home health aides, which makes sense due to the nature of the disease.

The way in which dementia progresses mandates that full assistance will be required as the disease develops. Not only does cognitive function slowly deteriorate, but also physical function begins to decrease as nerve and muscle function are affected by the disease. At this time, there are no effective treatments to curb the progression of the disease and no known cure, making the deterioration of loved ones inevitable. Thus the average family spends anywhere from $41,000 to $56,000 a year on aid or dementia patients, with expected increases by the year 2040.

There is an increasing need to not only spread awareness about the effects of dementia, but also to develop the home health aide population and nursing facilities that will eventually serve large populations of dementia patients.