Health Care Costs for Dementia Patients Greatly Exceeds Costs for Other Elders

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According to a recent study jointly conducted by Dartmouth College, the University of California, Los Angeles and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, healthcare costs for patients with dementia is 81 percent higher during the last five years of a patient’s life than it is for individuals with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or other diseases or conditions.

Researchers utilizing data collected from more than 1700 Medicare recipients who died between 2005 and 2010 indicates that the average cost of providing healthcare to patients with dementia during the last five years of those patient’s lives was $287,000. Comparatively, the average cost of care during the last five years of a patient’s life with heart disease was $175,000, while those costs averaged $173,000 for those who died of cancer.

One of the major differences in these costs, according to the study, is that patients with dementia often require extensive care which is not paid for by Medicare, whereas those costs associated with heart disease and cancer are often covered healthcare expenses.

More ominous, however, is the concern that we as a country are facing a caregiver crisis as more Baby Boomers reach the age that they will require extensive care. Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, currently afflicts 5.1 million Americans. That number is expected to approach 14 million Americans by 2050.

With almost three times the number of elderly patients requiring expensive care to treat their dementia, much of which is not covered by Medicare or other health insurance, the financial costs alone will impoverish all but the wealthiest patients and their families. The emotional costs for families struggling to care for aging family members and earn a living will become vastly greater.

Source: Washington Post