Cost of Dementia in the Billions and Rising

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Dementia is considerably one the most expensive diseases in our society. A rigorous cost assessment, funded by the federal government and recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, estimated the total annual cost of dementia in the United States to be at least $109 billion in 2010, with $11 billion of this cost going to Medicare. With an aging population, this cost is expected to at least double by 2040.

Almost 15% of persons over 70 years of age have some form of dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Pick’s disease. The authors estimated the average annual cost of dementia to be between $41,689 to $56,290 per person. Assessing the exact total cost of dementia is very difficult. Many have dementia without their or their family members realizing it, and others have coexisting medical conditions that compound the overall cost. This report, however, gives what many experts say is the most reliable estimate for how many Americans have dementia — about 3.8 million.

It may actually cost more to take care of those who have dementia compared to those who have heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Heart disease and cancer cost our country $102 billion and $77 billion respectively in 2010. The majority of expenses for dementia comes from the cost of long-term care, either at home or in a nursing facility, which overshadows costs from medications or acute hospitalizations. Nursing care, formal or informal home care represents 74-84% of the total cost.

To help defray these costs, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act into law. Its main goal is to improve how the federal government tracks the cost of dementia and improve outcomes among patients. However, the rising cost of this disease, many fear, may overwhelm the health-care system— even with the Affordable Care Act in place.

You can be proactive about fighting dementia. Check out our 5-step Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan.