Attempting to calculate the cost of dementia care is a tricky task. Generalities which do not require research – “it’s expensive,” “costs are going to rise,” “it’s a growing business,” etc. will not contribute any hard data. The New England Journal of Medicine published the “Monetary Costs of Dementia” last week. The background for this study was the Jan 2011 passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which hopes to track public and private spending on dementia.
The study lists two reasons why calculating dementia costs is difficult:
- Dementia sufferers are likely to have other coexisting, chronic health problems. Isolating dementia care from overlapping diseases (e.g. depression) is inexact.
- Family and friends of dementia sufferers normally do not bill for their time. Their work is an essential but inexact cost.
The study used a subset (856 people) of the Health and Retirement Study’s longitudinal survey, began in 1991. The factors which showed an increased probability for dementia:
- Advanced age
- Lower income
- Less formal education
- Stoke, depression and heart disease
- Limitations in activities of daily living (ADL)
The most significant cost for those w dementia was care. In 2010 dollars, the average amount spent per person was $33, 329. That amount excludes the cost of informal care (friends and family). When factoring in the cost of informal care, the dollar amount spent per dementia patient rises to a range of $41,869 – $56, 290.
The study estimates 14.7% of the population over 70 suffers from dementia w an annual cost of $109 billion (not including informal care). If rates continue to hold, the study estimates costs will rise 79% by 2040 b/c of aging trends.
The authors of the study discuss their results at the end. The largest component of dementia costs is care – assisted living/nursing home and home-based. Care for dementia patients ranges from 75-84% of the total cost. The money spent in 2010 on dementia is higher than cancer and heart disease. The study compares its results to another dementia study done by the Alzheimer’s Association – which arrived at higher health care costs. The two studies used different methods and populations.
The Wall Street Journal covers the study here.
- Bill would restore funding for specialized dementia care (newsobserver.com)