Dementia’s devastating financial cost

By Laura Mize • Published: July 12th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Dementia affects 14 percent of people in the U.S. older than 70, inflicting varying levels of cognitive decline.

An article recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine sheds more light on another debilitating effect of dementia: extreme financial burden. It shows the estimated cost of care for Americans with dementia was between 157 and 215 billion dollars in 2010.

That’s a lot of cash. Medical care for dementia … the easy part to calculate … accounts for 109 billion dollars. The rest goes to the daily attention people with dementia require.

Dementia’s cognitive decline manifests in small ways at first, then grows. Eventually, even the most intelligent and accomplished people may be unable to tie a shoe or recognize a friend. Getting through life safely and healthfully typically requires lots of assistance, either from loved ones or hired help.

When relatives take the responsibility at no charge, there’s still a cost to be calculated. Some quit jobs or work less to help out, losing wages. The higher end of the national estimate … 215 billion dollars … includes the approximate value of care loved ones provide. That’s what a professional would charge for the same work.

Experts say these estimates show dementia care in the U.S. has a heftier price than care for heart or cancer patients. What’s more, it’s bound to increase as our population ages.

Want to avoid this costly condition? There are no sure ways to prevent it, but doctors do offer suggestions. Exercising regularly, eating healthfully, keeping your brain stimulated, interacting socially and saying no to smoking are some of the strategies experts recommend.

Now, that’s a good start to healthy aging.