A new report shows that Alzheimer’s disease cases and the costs of treatment and hospitalization due to this disease and deaths due to this condition are on the rise. The report finds that at present 5.7 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and of these 5.5 million are over the age of 65 years. Of these 3.4 million are women.
Alzheimer’s disease on the rise. Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock
The report estimates that by year 2025, 29 percent of all the elderly population translating in to 7.1 million people, could be diagnosed with this condition. By 2050, if there is no cure, the numbers would be around 13.8 million. The report was released yesterday (20th March 2018) by the Alzheimer’s Association.
The report finds that the rate of growth of this deadly form of dementia is exponential. At present a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds, the report says. This time would come down to 33 seconds by 2050 if not curbed. Over a period of 15 years between 2000 and 2015, rate of Alzheimer’s related deaths have risen by 123 percent whereas the rate of death due to heart disease has fallen by 11 percent. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country and fifth-leading cause of death among the seniors. It is one of the only causes of death among the top ten that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed in its progress.
Keith Fargo, who works for the Alzheimer’s Association and directs their scientific programs said that this report also adds to the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is a cost burden on the healthcare system as well. Treatment of dementias and Alzheimer’s disease costs the healthcare system $277 billion this year, the report finds. $186 billion of this is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid and $60 billion is personal expenditure. This is the second year with such high costs, they write. The costs are estimated to cross $1.1 trillion by 2050 in 2018 dollars, they write.
The report estimates that last year the lifetime costs of an Alzheimer’s patient were $329,360 and 70 percent of this was borne by the families. Adults caring for Alzheimer’s patients spent 18.4 billion hours in unpaid care to Alzheimer’s patients that is worth an estimated $232 billion. This level of care giving additionally costs $11.4 billion for the healthcare needs of the care givers. They noted that 41 percent of the care givers to Alzheimer’s disease patients had an income of $50,000 a year or less but ended up spending $10,697 from their own pockets compared to $5,758 spent by care givers to other diseases. The requirement of certified care givers is not even met at half way, the report finds. Only 9 percent of nurse practitioners are trained to care for old age.
Fargo said that it levies a huge toll in the finances as well as physical and emotional reserves of the families. He added that with this rate of growth, rising number of deaths, lack of cure, and huge costs to the society, this burden of Alzheimer’s disease is only going to worsen. He added, “We must continue to attack Alzheimer’s through a multidimensional approach that advances research while also improving support for people with the disease and their caregivers.” He said science had made a lot of progress in terms of treating heart diseases and cancers. Alzheimer’s needs a similar breakthrough. It needs to be made a “national health priority” he said. Adequate funding for research is necessary to ensure “early detection” and “better treatments”.