There are nearly 15 million people caring for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and dementia in the USA, the Alzheimer's Association has revealed today. The number of caregivers is 37% higher than estimates published last year, according the 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.
The authors of the report found that American caregivers gave 17 billion hours of unpaid care, estimated at $202.6 billion. A state with a population of 15 million would be the 5th largest in the USA.
Most individuals over the age of 65 years survive for about four to eight years after they are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, sometimes 20 years. Because of the debilitating effects of the disease and its long duration, family members and friends who care for patients are placed under increasingly intense demands
The longer a caregiver has to look after somebody with Alzheimer's, the greater their own health issues become, representing a further financial burden of almost $8 billion in raised healthcare costs.
Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, said:
"Alzheimer's disease doesn't just affect those with it. It invades families and the lives of everyone around them. It is stressful and heartbreaking to see someone you love trapped in a present where their past is fading and their future too frightening to contemplate. Nearly 15 million dedicated and committed family members and friends are living with this every day."
5.4 million Americans are thought to be living with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is not a part of normal aging, even though age is its greatest risk factor, the Alzheimer's Association writes.
Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in America. It is "the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed."
Deaths from Alzheimer's disease have gone up 66% during the period 2000-2008, compared to minus 3% for major diseases of the heart, minus 29% for HIV/AIDS, minus 20% for stroke, minus 8% for prostate cancer, and minus 3% for breast cancer.
Total payments for health care and long-term services for patients with Alzheimer's will rise by $11 billion this year compared to last year to $183 billion, the Alzheimer's Association estimates. Most of this increase will be made up by Medicare and Medicaid costs.
Over the next four decades Medicare costs related to Alzheimer's and dementias will rise by almost 600% and Medicaid costs by 400% the Alzheimer's Association believes.
Robert Egge, Vice President for Public Policy for the Alzheimer's Association, said:
"The projected rise in Alzheimer's incidence will become an enormous balloon payment for the nation a payment that will exceed 1 trillion dollars by 2050. It is clear our government must make a smart commitment in order make these costs unnecessary."
Early detection and intervention of Alzheimer's disease has significant benefits for both patients and caregivers. Early interventions and improved treatments are currently our greatest hopes in dealing with or halting brain damage.
Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services, said:
"For people affected by irreversible cognitive decline or dementia, a formal and documented diagnosis helps the individual and their family explain and expect behaviors, and opens doors to vital care and support services. A diagnosis can help reduce the anxiety and emotional burden experienced by opening access to valuable support services."
If patients are diagnosed early they are more likely to have a prompt evaluation and treatment of reversible or treatable causes of cognitive impairment. Families which are affected by the disease also have more time to ponder over available medical and non-medical services, as well as taking part in clinical trials.
"2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures" (PDF)
Source: Alzheimer's Association
Written by Christian Nordqvist