Money Remains a Factor When Considering Alzheimer's Disease

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • It seems like the latest news about Alzheimer’s is all about money! And the suggestion is that we need to spend more money in order to save more money.


    So what’s the plan for the projected spending?  President Obama announced that $100 million is needed to map the human brain. He stressed that this money will provide researchers the necessary resources that eventually may lead to breakthroughs in both treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other brain conditions. This initiative is called the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.  I do believe  this initiative will be as important to our country as the Space Race in the 1960s and the more recent Human Genome Project. The money, which is part of the 2014 budget that the president will offer to Congress, would support research done by the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation.

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    So can our country afford it? Well, actually we can’t afford not to do it. Here’s why – the cost of dementia is now higher than that of cancer and heart disease, according to a new study by the RAND Corporation.


    In this study, researchers looked at a subsample of 856 people who participated in the Health and Retirement Study, which is a longitudinal study of older adults. Participants were screened for dementia based on a detailed in-home cognitive assessment that lasted up to four hours and a review by a panel of experts. The researchers then used the results of this screening to infer the cognitive status of the full Health and Retirement Study population, thus allowing them to identify people who probably had dementia.  The researchers then used self-reported out-of-pocket spending, the cost of nursing home care and Medicare claims data to calculate the market costs associated with care for people who have dementia. In addition, the hours of unpaid care provided by informal caregivers were calculated based on the cost for equivalent professional caregiving services or the estimated loss of wages that the informal caregiver gave up due to taking care of the person who has dementia.


    The analysis found that 14.7 percent of people who are older than 70 who live in the United States have some form of dementia.  The yearly cost for caring for one person with dementia was between $41,689 and $56,290. The researchers’ calculations found that the total cost of dementia in2010 alone was between $157 billion and $215 billion, of which Medicare paid about $11 billion.


    The research team found that the cost of dementia care purchases totaled $109 billion, as compared to $102 billion for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer. However, these projected costs for cancer and heart disease do not include the cost of care provided by informal caregivers, such as family members and friends. And it’s these costs that are believed to weigh more heavily in the cases of dementia. “People with dementia do not get much more additional health care services than other people,” Dr. Michael Hurd, a senior economist at RAND and the study’s lead author, said in a RAND press release. “The real drivers of the cost are for non-medical care.”


  • And with the growing number of Baby Boomers reaching an age where dementia is more prevalent, it’s important to think about taking action now. “There are no signs that the costs of dementia will decrease given that the nation will have a larger number of 85-year-olds in the future than we do today,” Dr. Hurd said. “Unless there is some sort of medical breakthrough, these costs will continue to rise.”

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    Dr. Hurd is right – and what he’s projecting is a scary future for the United States. Therefore, I hope that policymakers will see the BRAIN Initiative as a critical investment in not only our citizens’ health, but also that of our nation!


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Hurd, M.D., et al. (2013). Monetary costs of dementia in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine.


    Memmott, M. (2013). Obama says $100 million will be invested in brain-mapping initiative. NPR.org.


    RAND Corporation. (2013). Cost of dementia tops $157 billion annually in the United States.

Published On: April 04, 2013