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U.S. May Spend More on Dementia Care Than Cancer

Annual bill now tops $200 billion, largely for long-term care, researchers say

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Study author Hurd said the findings highlight two big needs: some sort of health insurance program to cover long-term care and more research into ways to slow the progression of dementia or delay its onset.

"If we could delay the onset of dementia, the payoff would be high," Hurd said.

NIA director Hodes agreed. "We don't have an effective treatment or an effective way to prevent dementia," he said. "And the results from studies so far have been disappointing, to say the least."

But there are clinical trials under way, looking at both drugs and other approaches -- such as exercise -- to forestall dementia.

"There is reason for hope and optimism," Hodes said.

Hurd said dementia may already be having a bigger financial impact than heart disease and cancer -- which cost the nation $102 billion and $77 billion, respectively, in 2010.

Those estimates do not include the costs of family caregiving, Hurd said. "But it's likely they would be lower compared with dementia," he added.

He and Hodes both stressed that this study looked only at one aspect of dementia care -- the financial one. "We calculated the monetary cost," Hurd said. "This says nothing about the huge emotional burden on families."

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