Dementia care, including that of Alzheimer's disease and other conditions that result in cognitive losses, has costs so high that it tops that of the two leading causes of death in the United States, heart disease and cancer, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health published today in the New England Journal of Medicine .
Costs of Dementia Care to Individuals and Health Care
Unlike heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the United States, according to theU.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , where the high costs of treatment are related to surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and ongoing medication treatment, many of the costs associated with dementia are to the individuals and their families.
The yearly costs associated with dementia show that out-of-pocket spending averages $6,200 per person, outdistancing Medicare's cost of $2,700 per person. Informal home care costs per person were determined both for caregiving time valued according to replacement costs, $27,800, and for caregiving time valued according to cost of forgone wages, $13,200.
Although the individual costs may seem to pale in comparison to those of nursing home costs annually per person with dementia at $13,000, many people with dementia are first cared for at home or in the home of a family member before ever receiving nursing home care. The grand totals for care purchased in the marketplace plus caregiving time valued according to replacement costs were $56,300 and those for care purchased in the marketplace plus caregiving time valued according to the cost of forgone wages were $41,700.
All the costs were adjusted to 2010 dollars.
Comparison of Total Annual Costs for Dementia, Heart Disease and Cancer
Care purchased in the marketplace for 2010 totaled $109 billion for dementia, $102 billion for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer, reported the AP .
Statistics compiled by the NIH-funded study show that in 2010, the total costs for dementia care forreplacement cost annually were $215 billion and those for dementia care in cost of forgone wages were $159 billion.
Estimated costs for each of the three cost areas -- marketplace, replacement costs and forgone wages -- for 2040 show that these total costs will jump to $259 billion, $511 billion and $379 billion, respectively.
Outlook for Dementia Care in the Future
So much of the care associated with dementia is left to their spouses and family members. As Richard Hodes, M.D. , Director of the National Institute on Aging, pointed out to WebMD.com , that such care in the future may face tougher times due to the smaller sizes of families among younger baby boomers. This will mean there are fewer family members to care for a rapidly aging population, among whom the incidence of dementia increases with the years.
The National Alzheimer's Project Act , signed into law in January 2011, is an attempt to approach the situation with Alzheimer's disease and dementia in general in a proactive manner, which the Alzheimer's
Association has already begun to run with in its National Alzheimer's Plan .
Individuals and families need to be planning now for what the future may hold for the older individuals should dementia strike. Remember that important documents such as advanced directives and financial planning should be made ahead of a dementia diagnosis, allowing you control over such important decisions and lessening the burden for family members.