As Alzheimer’s diagnoses rise and treatments in clinical trials continue to stall, the cost of the disease is going up—to the tune of $277 billion in the U.S. in 2018, a $20 billion increase from last year.
The numbers are based on the latest report on Alzheimer’s cost released by the Alzheimer’s Association. And the $277 billion doesn’t include one very costly element: the time caregivers sacrifice in order to care for their loved one.
“In 2017, 16 million Americans provided an estimated 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care in the form of physical, emotional and financial support—a contribution to the nation valued at $232.1 billion,” said the Alzheimer’s Association.
Most of those caregivers are women—about two-thirds—and one-third are daughters. The report found that 83 percent of the care provided to patients is unpaid, provided by relatives, friends or neighbors. At an average of 20 hours per week, caregiving is tough, and takes its toll. The report found that caregivers have higher rates of heart disease and depression.
The overall costs of healthcare are astounding, but the financial burden of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis affects families, too. How much does an Alzheimer’s diagnosis cost individually? According to the Association, Alzheimer’s costs $341,000 on average for the health needs of someone from diagnosis to death. Families pay 70 percent of this out of pocket.
The cost of care is projected to increase to $1.1 trillion by 2050. Patient numbers are expected to climb from 53 million in 2018 to 88 million in 2050.
The good news: Earlier diagnosis does have a positive effect on cost and longevity. “While current therapies do not prevent, halt or reverse Alzheimer’s disease, they can temporarily improve and prolong cognitive function in many individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia,” researchers wrote in the report. It’s estimated that early diagnosis could save up to 15 percent of the cost of Alzheimer’s.
An early diagnosis also means patients have an opportunity to enter clinical trials that may benefit them, said the report. And overall, the best thing about knowing as soon as possible is the ability for both the patient and their family to prepare for what is to come.
“Once a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease or Alzheimer’s dementia has been made, individuals and family members can learn what to expect for the future and plan accordingly,” said the report. “In addition, early diagnosis allows individuals to maximize time spent engaging in activities that are meaningful to them and interacting with the most important people in their lives.”
Read the full report here.