A recent study revealed that the cost of dementia may be set to outpace costs for other serious conditions, including cancer and heart disease. Researchers working with the University of Michigan Health System and the RAND Corporation used a representative sample from the Health and Retirement Study, which was funded by the NIH, to analyze various health care costs. The study, which appears in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” revealed that the expense per patient could range from $41,000 to $56,000 per year. They estimate that dementia-related health costs had soared to $215 billion.
The risk of dementia increases with age. As more elderly people become vulnerable to cognitive impairment over the next few decades, the cost of this devastating condition is expected to double. The disease progresses over time, and people can become increasingly unable to manage their own daily needs, which is why the bulk of dementia-related expenses are associated with daily care and supervision. Out-of-pocket costs have been estimated at nearly $110 billion compared to $102 billion and $77 billion for heart disease and cancer respectively. The costs for informal care can range from $50 billion to $106 billion, according to the study.
Researchers note that more than 20 percent of people have at least some degree of cognitive impairment by 71, and 12 percent of those with cognitive impairment continue to experience functional deterioration or memory loss that is severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. The financial costs associated with dementia are expensive, but the emotional costs can be even direr. People need help caring for their loved ones who have been stricken with dementia.
President Obama has recently launched the BRAIN Initiative, which is designed to map the human brain, study the mind and provide us with solutions. Identifying new, more effective treatment methods and prevention strategies can help more elderly people enjoy a healthier, happier future. Increased research might be the key, and public initiatives can provide the information that can help loved ones build better tomorrows that are free of the financial burden and emotional pain of dementia.