Alzheimer's Prevalence, Deaths, Cost of Care Up Sharply, Study Finds

Alzheimer's Prevalence, Deaths, Cost of Care Up Sharply, Study Finds

The total cost of paid care for people living with Alzheimer's and other types of dementia is projected to reach $277 billion in 2018, a report from the Alzheimer's Association finds.

The report, 2018 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures (88 pages, PDF), found that 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, including 5.5 million people age 65 and older — 10 percent of all older adults; by 2025 that number is projected to reach 7.1 million. The report also found that the number of deaths from Alzheimer's increased 123 percent between 2000 and 2015, making the disease the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the fifth-leading cause for those age 65 and older. During the same period, the number of deaths from heart disease, the number-one cause of death among Americans, fell 11 percent.

According to the report, the projected total cost in 2018 of health care, long-term care, and hospice care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias — which includes $186 billion in Medicare and Medicaid costs and $60 billion in out-of-pocket costs — will increase by $20 billion on a year-over-year basis and is projected to exceed $1.1 trillion by 2050. In addition, an estimated 16.1 million Americans provided a total of 18.4 billion hours of unpaid caregiving, valued at $232 billion in 2017 for people with Alzheimer's or other dementias. Nearly half (48 percent) of unpaid caregivers for older adults are caring for someone suffering dementia, with a third of those caregivers age 65 or older, two-thirds women, and a third daughters caring for a parent.

A special report included in the study, Alzheimer's Disease: Financial and Personal Benefits of Early Diagnosis, highlights new economic modeling data indicating that early diagnosis of Alzheimer's during the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage could save the nation as much as $7.9 trillion in health and long-term care expenditures over the lifetimes of all Americans living today. In a scenario in which people were more likely to be diagnosed during the MCI stage rather than the dementia stage, per-person costs for health and long-term care would fall from the current $424,000 to $360,000, while those living with Alzheimer's would benefit from a more accurate diagnosis and be able to adopt lifestyle changes that could help preserve cognitive function, participate in clinical trials, plan for the future, and maximize time spent with loved ones or engaged in meaningful activities.

"This year's report illuminates the growing cost and impact of Alzheimer's on the nation's healthcare system, and also points to the growing financial, physical, and emotional toll on families facing this disease," said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association. "Soaring prevalence, rising mortality rates, and lack of an effective treatment all lead to enormous costs to society. Alzheimer's is a burden that's only going to get worse. We must continue to attack Alzheimer's through a multidimensional approach that advances research while also improving support for people with the disease and their caregivers."