According to a new study released by RAND Corp, Alzheimer’s disease is now officially the most expensive medical condition facing America. It is estimated that the disease costs around $157 billion to $215 billion a year. Yes, that’s billion with a “B.” While cancer and cardiovascular disease actually cause more deaths around the country, it’s dementia that takes the most money out of your wallet.
The largest cost of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia does not come from medication, treatment or doctor’s visits. The cost actually comes from the care that’s needed to get mentally impaired seniors through the activities of daily life, according to the nonprofit RAND Corp.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Dementia can also develop in some patients after suffering from a stroke or other disease affecting the brain. As the U.S. population continues to age, the number of dementia cases continues to rise.
As it stands today, Alzheimer’s and dementia related treatments only ease some of the symptoms; they don’t slow actually prevent or slow progression of the disease. According to official estimates, almost 75 percent of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will end up being cared for in a nursing home.
The new RAND study also gives what is believed to be the most reliable estimate for the number of Americans who currently have dementia. The RAND study estimates that around 4.1 million Americans are suffering from dementia. That number is significantly less than the widely cited 5.2 million estimate from the Alzheimer’s Association.
The shocking portion of the RAND study is not necessarily the difference in dementia cases around the nation, it’s the shocking price tag that comes with the disease. The direct costs of dementia, which range from medicines to nursing homes, total approximately $109 billion a year in 2010, the new RAND report discovered. That number can easily be compared to the $102 billion paid for patients with heart disease and the $77 billion paid for patients with cancer. Home care provided by family members and loved ones pushes the total price for dementia even higher, factoring in how that home healthcare and subsequent lost wages are valued.