Study says Alzheimer’s care costs rise to $259 billion

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By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s dementia. By mid-century, someone in the U.S. will develop the disease every 33 seconds.

Of the estimated 5.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017, 5.3 million people are age 65 and older. Approximately 200,000 are under age 65 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the fifth-leading cause of death for those ages 65 and older, yet remains the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

These are just some of the findings from the annual Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures report released earlier this month.

The Alzheimer’s Association conducts this study annually, but this year they found that for the first time ever, total payments for caring for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias was $259 billion.

“This is a national crisis that will bankrupt Medicare if it is not resolved,” said Jennifer Walker, vice president of communications and advocacy at the Southington office for the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut.

“Anyone with a brain is at risk for the disease,” she said. “It’s only getting worse because the ‘baby boomers’ generation is at the susceptible age.”

The report said that, right now, over 75,000 Connecticut residents are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

The resource center in Southington provides information, support groups, training, raises funds throughout the year, and advocates at a public policy level. Walker said that she will be among 17 other staff members and advocates to visit Washington D.C. next month. There, they will ask Congress for additional funds to aid in research and support.

The government’s national plan is to have a plan or a cure to address the rapid growth of the disease by 2025.

“If there is no cure by the year 2050, Medicare will go bankrupt,” said Walker. “It is an expensive disease because of the cost of care.”

The national cost for Alzheimer’s care and other dementias is estimated at $259 billion, with $175 billion being the cost to Medicare and Medicaid alone.

The report estimated that total Connecticut Medicaid costs related to dementia patients age 65 and older are at $880 million for 2017. Over the next eight years, that figure is expected to increase 30.8 percent, or $1.2 billion.

People living with Alzheimer’s tend to live longer than people with other diseases like cancer. Because of that, their families accrue years of financial and mental burden to cover their healthcare needs. The Alzheimer’s Association chapter in Southington offers support to caregivers to ease the stress and offer information.

“Our biggest resource is the 24/7 helpline,” Walker said. It offers over 100 different languages and is open for anyone with a concern, need for assistance, referrals, or if they just need to talk.

Southington also has a GAP group – Giving Alzheimer’s Purpose – for people in the early stages of the disease that want to connect with others. Walker said that it is an active group that participates in community events and acts as a support group in itself.

To learn more contact the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter, call 800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/ct

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