Skip to content

    Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

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

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

    continued...

    It's a small share because Medicare does not usually cover nursing home or other long-term care. Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, will cover it -- but only after certain patient assets have been spent down.

    "A large part of the burden is borne by families," said Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, which funded the study.

    Hodes noted that things could get tougher in the years to come. The younger baby boomers had fewer children compared with past generations -- so along with the rise in the number of elderly adults with dementia, there will be fewer family members to care for them.

    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."

    1 | 2

    Today on WebMD

    Remember your finger
    When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
    senior man with serious expression
    Which kinds are treatable?
     
    senior man
    Common symptoms to look for.
    mri scan of human brain
    Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
     
    Checklist
    ARTICLE
    eating blueberries
    ARTICLE
     
    clock
    Article
    Colored mri of brain
    ARTICLE
     
    Human brain graphic
    ARTICLE
    mature woman
    ARTICLE
     
    Woman comforting ailing mother
    ARTICLE
    Senior woman with serious expression
    ARTICLE