The number of Americans with dementia is estimated to be between four and five million dollars, which when you factor in Alzheimer’s, has become the most expensive malady in the U.S., costing families and society $157 billion to $215 billion a year, according to a new Rand study. Cancer and heart disease are bigger killers, but their attending costs are lower than that of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia due to not only drugs or other medical treatments, but the care that’s needed just to get mentally impaired people through daily life.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to increase 40% to 7.1 million by 2025. Without medical advancements, that number is projected to rise to 13.8 million people by 2050 and could reach as high as 16 million.
“Dementing illnesses are chronic, terminal conditions, with a variety of underlying causes. In some instances, confusion is reversible and is due to another medical condition that could be attributed to something as simple as a hearing loss or medication side effects. Mental confusion is not always due to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. A healthcare practitioner should be consulted for assessment and treatment if necessary,” recommends Chizek, an RN and president of Charism® Eldercare Services in Westmont, Illinois.
On top of direct medical costs, researchers factored in unpaid care using two different ways to estimate its value – foregone wages for caregivers and what the care would have cost if bought from a provider such as a home health aide. That gave a total annual cost of $41,000 to $56,000 per year for each dementia case, depending on which valuation method was used.
Caregiving fatigue is now a real health concern for today’s caregivers, especially since six in ten family caregivers are employed. In fact, 73% of family caregivers who care for someone over the age of 18 either work or have worked while providing care; 66% have had to make some adjustments to their work life, from reporting late to work to giving up work entirely; and 1 in 5 family caregivers have had to take a leave of absence.
“Dementia care costs will inevitably rise, but family members and caretakers can help reduce long-term care costs of dementia by paying close attention to seniors who start exhibiting confusion and memory loss. Early intervention can help control the severity of some dementia cases, so communicate with a senior’s medical team and begin a treatment plan, advises Chizek.
For more information on making informed decisions about dementia care, visit Mardy Chizek and Charism Elder Care Services on-line at www.charism.net.