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About 5.4 million Americans, including one in eight people over age 65, have Alzheimer’s—a brain disease that leads to the loss of cognitive function. Without a cure, the number may triple to 16 million people by 2050. Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
High Cost of Care
In 2012, the estimated cost for caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias was $200 billion, with 70 percent ($140 billion) paid by Medicare and Medicaid. Alzheimer’s patients who also have other chronic conditions—such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes—use health care services and hospitals more often, accounting for three times higher medical costs for older people living with Alzheimer’s.
In addition, more than 15 million people are caregivers for family members or friends with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, accounting for an estimated 17.4 billion hours of unpaid care in 2011 with an estimated value of more than $210 billion. According to the National Institute on Aging, lost productivity, missed work and replacement expenses for employees to provide care for a relative indirectly costs businesses up to $37 billion a year.
The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), signed into law in January 2011, called for a national strategic plan and coordinated federal efforts related to Alzheimer’s disease, including establishing an advisory council.
At least 30 states have created a state Alzheimer’s plan or established a task force to do so. The plans often include seeking ways to: improve early detection, better coordinate health care services, set training requirements for health care providers and support people caring for their relatives. States may encourage family caregiving by providing support for caregivers and allowing Medicaid to cover in-home and community services.
Source: Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s Association 2012; NCSL 2012
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