America spends a lot of its health care dollars on a few diseases–heart conditions, cancer, and now dementias. Alzheimers’ and other dementias are now the number one disease among all spending. But dementia also leads to a lot of non-health care nursing home spending, at-home caretakers, and other costs for the families dealing with these difficult and tragic situations. And as the population ages, it is occurring more and more often. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association details the health care and other financial consequences. (JAMA Article)
Compared to a non-dementia control group in a two year followup period, the dementia patients required more than three times as much informal caretaking hours, almost twice as much in-home medical care, about a third more hospital care and over five times as much nursing home services. Over an eight year period, the wealth of these families declined 50% more than that of non-dementia households, and out-of-pocket expenses and Medicaid use doubled. Dementia currently has no good preventative or curative or even ameliorative treatments. No condition is more desperately in need of our finding some effective treatments and if we don’t the costs will contribute to the financial woes of our health care system and to financial stress on afflicted families.