The costs associated with caring for Americans with dementia is rising – and it’s rising at alarming rates. In fact, one study released reveals the financial burden is similar to costs associated with heart disease and cancer. Further, the number of people with dementia will double over the next three decades. It doesn’t take much to see that train rolling, at full speed, towards an already troubled healthcare system.
Not all research projects agree in terms of the costs, though none disagree with the fact that costs are rising as are the number of Americans projected to be diagnosed. And all agree that the aging baby boomer generation is proving to be especially problematic.
Swamp the System
“It’s going to swamp the system,” said Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, chairman of the advisory panel to the federal government’s recently created National Alzheimer’s Plan. He also said he believes these numbers are “somewhat conservative”.
The study showed that close to 15 percent of Americans age 71 or older have dementia. That equates to just less than 4 million people. By 2040, that number is expected to be between 9 and 9.5 million. Another medical professional familiar with the study goes a step further, “I don’t know of any other disease predicting such a huge increase,” said Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging. He also voices concern over the aging baby boomer population. A full twenty five percent of baby boomers are childless and this, he says, “is going to intensify the problem even more”.
Perspective on Dementia
Direct health care expenses for dementia, including nursing home care, were $109 billion in 2010. For heart disease, those costs totaled $102 billion; for cancer, $77 billion. Michael D. Hurd, the lead author and a principal senior researcher at RAND, the group that conducted the study, said the team could find no research quantifying such informal care for heart disease and cancer; however, he (and other experts) agree that the intensive nature coupled with constant monitoring that is required for those with dementia make a more definitive number impossible to predict. Dr. Petersen said, “Clearly, dementia is going to outstrip those dramatically.”
Most often, caring for dementia patients is accomplished by the family and the costs of this “informal care” ranged between $50 billion to $106 billion. Slightly varying criteria explains the gap.
A single case of dementia costs between $41,000 to $56,000 every year, the study said. By 2040, researchers say the total costs for each case will double. The population is growing, too and those burdens will only amplify the costs.
To put the icing on the cake, the study shows that without cures or preventive solutions, up to 84 percent of the costs of caring for dementia patients will fall to families who are trying to find beds in nursing homes that can provide around the clock care.
Dementia and Estate Planning in Beverly
Will proper estate planning provide any security? It can, if handled properly. The fact that no one knows for sure who will fall victim to this brutal disease highlights the importance of preparing for the unknowns in life. Setting up powers of attorney can help a family better care for a loved one and of course, our will and living will is crucial. They should be a part of any estate plan.