A Third of U.S. Seniors Die With Dementia: Study
Report tallies enormous medical, financial and caregiver toll of conditions like Alzheimer's
Overall, the cost of caring for the 5 million people with Alzheimer's disease is about $203 billion, according to the report. That figure includes Medicare, Medicaid, family costs and private insurance costs. The lion's share of the cost -- about $142 billion -- is paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
Even more concerning is that the Alzheimer's Association estimates that by 2050, nearly 14 million people will have Alzheimer's disease. That could drive costs for Alzheimer's care as high as $1.2 trillion in 2050.
The U.S. government currently funds about $500 million in Alzheimer's research, according to Kallmyer. In comparison, heart disease receives about $4 billion in research funding and cancer gets about $6 billion, she said.
Dr. Brian Appleby, a physician with the Center for Brain Health at the Cleveland Clinic, said he wasn't surprised by these latest figures.
"Alzheimer's is going to affect all of us individually. Soon, we'll all have someone we know or someone in the family or even ourselves with Alzheimer's disease. It's something we all need to be prepared for," Appleby said.
He said that while current treatments won't cure or reverse the disease, they can increase the amount of time until someone needs nursing home care. Right now, he said, the focus is on trying to prevent Alzheimer's disease from occurring.
"Alzheimer's disease is really a chronic illness. It starts decades before we see the symptoms," Appleby said. The best advice to potentially prevent Alzheimer's disease is to keep your heart healthy, he said. That means quitting smoking, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise. It also means staying active mentally, he added. Do crosswords and other puzzles, and read, he advised.
And, stay socially active, he recommended. "People who are socially isolated are at a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease," Appleby said.
For her part, Kallmyer added: "Alzheimer's is impacting so many people already, and the impact is significant. And, as the baby boomers age, the rate of Alzheimer's and the death rate from Alzheimer's is only going to increase."