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The Increasing Cost of Dementia

November 23, 2015
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Usually when we think of the deadliest diseases in the U.S., we think of cancer or heart disease. These diseases usually have a long period of time that is filled with expensive surgeries, drugs and hospitalizations. But what about the other deadly disease that doesn't have any sort of effective treatment? This disease is dementia. Surprisingly, caring for dementia is even more expensive than cancer and heart disease. According to a National Institutes of Health-funded study on medical patients with Medicare, the average total cost for a patient who died of heart disease within a five-year span was $175,136. For a cancer patient it was $173,383. However, for a dementia patient, the total cost was $287,038. Medicare paid around $100,000 for each disease, leaving dementia patients with much more costs to cover on their own. According to the study, patients with dementia paid 80% more out-of-pocket than those diagnosed with cancer or heart disease. NIH stated that the reason the cost skyrocketed for dementia patients was because they need caregivers to watch them, help them do things like eat, dress and bathe, and provide constant supervision. All of those costs, plus more, aren't covered by Medicare. Dr. Amy S. Kelley, a geriatrician at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York said, "The magnitude of the difference was shocking to me, even though the trend is what I expected. I don't think the vast majority of people have any idea about these costs unless they're living it." The study shows how future research needs to look more at care-giving related issues when it comes to dementia. Many people are left with very little funds after caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with the disease. When it comes to the resources needed to care for dementia patients or affording a nursing home, neither are covered by Medicare. The National Institute of Aging Director, Richard J. Hodes, M.D., said that the study "provides an important picture of the risks that families face, particularly those with dementia and those who may be least able to bear major financial risk. Such insights are critically important as we examine how best to support the aging of the U.S. population.”
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