Study: Number of People With Dementia, Cost of Care To Increase
Both the number of U.S. residents with dementia and the cost of their care are expected to more than double by 2040, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the New York Times reports.
For the study, researchers -- led by a principal senior researcher at the RAND Corporation and funded by the federal government -- examined data that were collected over a decade until 2010 through the national Health and Retirement Study on about 11,000 individuals over age 70.
All of the individuals underwent detailed cognitive tests, but a segment of them received more intense evaluations for dementia. Those data were used as a benchmark to assess the cognitive decline in the other study participants, according to Michael Hurd, the study's lead author (Belluck, New York Times, 4/3).
Based on all the data, the researchers estimated that 14.7% of U.S. residents -- or about 3.8 million people -- over age 70 suffered from dementia in 2010. In addition, 22% of individuals in the age group had mild cognitive impairment, meaning that they did not reach the threshold for dementia. Of that 22%, about 12% went on to develop dementia, Hurd said (New York Times, 4/3).
After combining data from the U.S. Census with data from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers found that the cost of medical care for people with dementia reached about $109 billion in 2010. By comparison, the total direct cost of treating patients with heart disease that year was about $102 billion, while the total cost of treatment for cancer patients was $77 billion (Kaplan, "Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 4/3).
The overall cost of care for dementia patients increased further when researchers included the cost of informal, unpaid care provided by friends and family, MedPage Today reports.
The total cost reached $159 billion when researchers calculated the "replacement cost" -- or the cost to hire a professional caretaker to do the same work -- and almost $215 billion when researchers used "forgone wages" or the money that informal caretakers could have earned if they were not providing such care (Struck, MedPage Today, 4/3).
Meanwhile, the study found that dementia patients typically had smaller medical bills, which amounted to 16% to 25% of the total cost of $109 billion, "Booster Shots" reports ("Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 4/3). Institutional or home-based long-term care accounted for about 75% to 84% of the total cost (MedPage Today, 4/3).
The researchers concluded from their analysis that the number of people suffering from dementia would increase to about 9.1 million by 2040 and that the cost per capita would be about 80% more than it currently is. Overall, the cost will range from between $379 billion to $511 billion.
According to the Times, the Alzheimer's Association -- which uses a different database and includes people in earlier stages of memory loss -- estimated that future costs would total about $1.2 trillion by 2050. Hurd said the "reality is somewhere in the middle" of the two estimates (New York Times, 4/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.