New Alzheimer’s Association report shows growing cost and impact of Alzheimer’s disease on nation’s families, economy

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According to findings from the 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, Alzheimer’s deaths have nearly doubled in the past 14 years, and total payments for caring for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias have exceeded a quarter trillion dollars, topping at $259 billion.

Florida ranks second highest in prevalence for the disease in the nation with more than 520,000 people living with Alzheimer's. In response, Florida Representatives Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) and Matt Willhite (D-Wellington) are distributing purple ties and scarves to their fellow legislators in the hope that they will wear them to spread awareness.

“Alzheimer’s disease affects more lives than just those diagnosed,” the representatives said. “This disease deeply affects their families and friends as many take on the role of caretaker. Our state needs to champion efforts to find a cure by funding new research projects, supporting families and caretakers and overall by raising awareness on this important issue.”

In Greater Jacksonville, where an estimated 31,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s, the figures resounded with Representative Tracie Davis.

“Having lost several family members to this horrid disease, it’s imperative that we continue to support our caregivers and educate our community about the increased cost associated with it.”

Alzheimer’s ripple effects

Although deaths from other major causes have decreased, new data from the report shows that deaths from Alzheimer's disease have increased significantly. Between 2000 and 2014, deaths from heart disease decreased 14 percent, while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 89 percent. Alzheimer’s disease is becoming a more common form of death and, barring the development of any medical breakthroughs, shows no signs of slowing down.This development has led to an increased burden on caregivers, with more than 15 million Americans providing unpaid physical, emotional and financial care for the estimated 5.5 million Americans living with the disease. In 2016, that totaled to an estimated 18.2 billion hours of care, valued at $230.1 billion. The report also found that the strain of caregiving produced serious physical and mental health consequences, with 35 percent of Alzheimer’s and other dementia caregivers reporting that their health had gotten worse due to their responsibilities. Depression and anxiety are also more common among these caregivers than among people providing care for individuals with other conditions.

At the epicenter of the disease are women, who disproportionately contribute to the makeup of that support, acting as roughly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s caregivers. New findings highlighted in the report show that 69 percent of caregivers providing more than 40 hours of care per week are women. More specifically, more than 30 percent of dementia caregivers are daughters.

Soaring Cost, Prevalence and Mortality

The Facts and Figures report provides an in-depth look at the latest national statistics and information on Alzheimer’s prevalence, incidence, use and costs of care, caregiving and mortality. Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia. By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.

Findings in the report show that, for the first time, total annual payments for health care, long-term care and hospice care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have surpassed a quarter of a trillion dollars. Additionally, despite support from Medicare, Medicaid and other sources of financial assistance, individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias still incur high out-of-pocket costs. The average per-person out-of-pocket costs for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are almost five times higher than average per-person payments for seniors without these conditions ($10,315 versus $2,232).

The total national cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated at $259 billion (excluding unpaid caregiving), of which $175 billion is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid. In Florida, the report estimated total Medicaid costs for people with dementia aged 65 and older at $2.3 billion for 2017. In the next eight years, that figure is expected to increase 46.9 percent.

The full text of the Alzheimer's Association 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report can be viewed at www.alz.org. The report will also appear in the April 2017 issue of “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.”

“The Alzheimer’s Association offers many education programs, support services and resources to all of our local families in need,” said chapter CEO Kay Redington. “An extremely valuable resource is the free 24/7 Helpline manned by dementia specialists day and night. If there are questions or concerns, 1-800-272-3900 is the number to call – specialists are always available, and help is offered in 27 languages."

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