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U.S. Spends More on Dementia Care Than Heart Disease or Cancer: Study
Date:4/4/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- The cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia may now be as high as $215 billion a year -- more than the cost of caring for heart disease or cancer, a new study finds.

And that number is expected to escalate as the elderly population grows.

In 2010, the United States spent somewhere between $157 billion and $215 billion on dementia care, researchers reported in the April 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. That includes direct medical expenses and the costs of caring for people with dementia -- both professional care and the "informal" care that families provide.

Dementia is a progressive deterioration in memory, thinking ability, judgment and other vital brain functions.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and a recent study estimated that with the aging baby boom generation, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's could triple by 2050, to nearly 14 million.

The new study tried to take a "comprehensive look" at the financial impact -- including the costs to family caregivers, said lead researcher Michael Hurd, a senior principal researcher at the nonprofit research institute RAND.

"It's not a happy situation," Hurd said. "A lot of the costs fall on families, and right now, there's no solution in sight."

The researchers based their estimates on a government study of older Americans, plus Medicare records and other data sources. Of the billions spent on dementia in 2010, only a small portion went to medical treatments, the study found.

Instead, long-term care -- either nursing homes, or home care provided by professionals or family members -- was the big expense, accounting for up to 84 percent of the total.

Per person, the costs ranged from about $41,700 to $56,300, depending on how the researchers calculated the cost of family caregi
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