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Cost Of Treating Alzheimer's And Other Forms of Dementia On The Rise

Apr 04, 2013 03:18 PM EDT
Gary Reiswig poses for portrait at his apartment in New York July 13, 2011. Reisweig's family has a rare form of Alzheimer's disease that has stricken 10 of his 14 aunts and uncles, his father and his only brother and sister in the prime of their lives. The family has dominantly inherited Alzheimer's disease which is rare, and afflicts the young. In his family, symptoms can appear in the early 40s. Some 35.6 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia. Drugs only help symptoms; none can arrest the illness.
(Photo : ALZHEIMERS/ REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

The cost of treating individuals living with dementia may be as high as $109 billion, according to a study released in the New England Journal of Medicine.

What's more, the study estimates that this number will more than double in the next 27 years for a total of $259 billion.

These costs far exceed the amount spent on treating cancer, which the report says is currently at $77 billion annually, and even heart disease, which it estimates to be $102 billion.

The price, the study explains, breaks down to $41,000 to $56,000 per case, a number that will only increase due to rising health costs.

In all, 74 to 85 percent of attributable costs were spent in institutional and home-based long-term care.

What's more, these numbers only represent formal care given the patients. If lost wages by family and friends who care for people living with dementia were factored in, the study estimates the total cost to fall around $215 billion.

The question for most, then, is whose wallet is feeling the pressure.

The answer, states the study, is largely taxpayers: 70 percent of dementia patients are eligible for Medicare while others have coverage under Medicaid.

For many, however, these numbers come as a pleasant surprise as past estimates by the Alzheimer's Assocation estimated a total of $172 billion in just money spent on care and not including lost income, etc.

Ultimately, the organization estimates that 1 in 3 seniors who die have Alzheimer's or another form of dementia and that there are currently 5 million living with the disease in the United States where it is the sixth leading cause of death.

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