Healthcare Tips for Durham: Alzheimer’s May Be Coming for Your Mind and Your Wallet

September 12, 2016 | By Lorenzo Mejia

Alzheimer’s and other dementias are evolving into a healthcare burden to baby boomers entering old age at a rate of 10,000/day. As senior health improves, the likelihood of getting dementia appears to be falling overall, but the total numbers of people with dementia are rising. The number of people with dementia in the United States is projected to more than double from 5.2 million to more than 13.5 million by 2050 according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That means by 2050, 3 percent of the U.S. population will have dementia. Those working in the field of Alzheimer’s say the federal government, state governments and American families haven’t prepared for the size of the problem. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates the cost of dementia care at $226 billion a year for 2015. Without any medical breakthrough, that will rise to $1.1 trillion annually by 2050. This means higher taxes or less spending on Medicare or Medicaid on costs not related to dementia. It will mean more memory care living facilities for those that can afford it and it will mean more research and treatments to slow or reduce the effects of dementia. Alzheimer’s and dementia will become more common with less stigma and embarrassing or mean-spirited humor.

After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the disease typically runs another four to eight years or can last as long as 25 years deepening on the stage at diagnosis and age of the patient. In the early stages, the patient and the family can likely manage and prepare by developing a care plan, arranging finances and arranging care. Once Alzheimer’s progresses to mid-stage, the patient will need care with bathing, eating, dressing and walking with the caregiver needing some time away on occasion. The last years of the disease, the patients cannot care for themselves. They are incontinent, may be unable to walk, talk or sleep and can be combative. They are typically in an assisted living facility or using skilled nursing care. Most of this will be paid for with a mix of Medicare, Medicaid, out of pocket spending and insurance. Medicaid will pay for long term care, but patients must first exhaust their savings. Many assisted living facilities won’t take Medicaid patients or will limit the number of beds for those patients. The increase in people with dementia will balloon government healthcare spending. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that Medicare and Medicaid will rise form $154 billion in 2015 to $765 in 2050. By 2050, the amount spent for dementia care will nearly equal the existing budgets for Medicare and Medicaid.

Have a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s in the Chapel Hill or Durham area?
Need a qualified person to provide in home care?
Acorn can help you get qualified, compassionate in home care givers.

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