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ExaminerWhile cancer and heart disease are the leading killers of Americans, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders lead in treatment costs. The total annual treatment cost for Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. is as much as $215 billion, the Associated Press reported April 3.
And what makes Alzheimer’s disease so expensive to treat is not medical care or medications but helping those with the disease simply live their daily lives, according to a new study from the RAND Corp.
“The economic burden of caring for people in the United States with dementia is large and growing larger,” said Michael Hurd, the study’s lead author and a senior economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Our findings underscore the urgency of recent federal efforts to develop a coordinated plan to address the growing impact of dementia on American society.”
The RAND report also gave a new estimate for how many Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease: 4.1 million. Previous estimates from the Alzheimer’s Association put the number at about 5.2 million Americans.
Dementia is a chronic disease of aging characterized by progressive cognitive decline that interferes with independent functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The direct cost of treating dementias and Alzheimer’s diseases, which includes medications and nursing homes, is about $109 billion annually, the report said.
The cost of caring for heart disease is about $102 billion and cancer about $77 billion.
The informal care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients by family members and others pushes the total cost of dementia care even higher, reaching as much as $215 billion.
The Rand Alzheimer’s disease study was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 4.
One of the reasons that Alzheimer’s disease is so expensive to treat is because people with dementia disorders live four to eight years on average after diagnosis, while some live for decades — needing specialized care throughout that time.