The New York Times reported this week on troubling new information which suggests we should expect a wave of dementia and similar cognitive conditions in the coming years. Considering the prevalence of these debilitating brain injuries already, it is critical not to underestimate the effect this change will have on so many families and communities. The most recent examination was financed by the federal government and led by the RAND Corporation. The project focused on calculating the financial impact of dementia. The results are alarming.
Shocking Dementia Cost
Most understand that many medical issues comes with tremendous costs. The financial impact of cancer, heart disease, and similar conditions have been well documented. This latest effort is the most thorough look at dementia. The authors found that in 2010 the direct health care expenses for dementia were about $109 billion. That includes payments for things like nursing home care, which account for about 75% of the total. Consider that this is significantly more per year than spent on all cases of heart disease or even cancer.
More specifically, the report found that, on average, a resident with dementia requires about $41,000 to $56,000 of extra care each year. This is an average, as even as single year of skilled nursing home care in New York comes with a significant higher annual price tag.
And the numbers will only rise. That is because the total number of people with dementia will undoubtedly rise in the coming years–and fast. The demographics are undeniable. Right now about 15% of the population over the age of 71 suffers from dementia-related conditions. Today this amounts to about 3.8 million people. But by 2040 that number will have more than doubled to 9.1 millions people. Obviously the costs for the the care will mirror the rise in affected community members. The researchers found that by 2040, nearly half a trillion dollars may be spent on dementia care.
In fact, the above estimates may be low-ball predictions, because it only refers to those who are obviously impacted by dementia. Other efforts suggest that another 22% of the population over 71 may have less obvious but still dangerous dementia impairment. While more mild, this group will still require some extra care that will have a cost. And even then, all of these RAND estimates are lower than the ones offered by the Alzheimer’s Association.
The bottom line: This is an incredibly serious national health and finance issue that will come to dominate discussions in the not too distant future. Public coffers will undoubtedly be stretched to the bone. It is critical for families to contact an elder law attorney for guidance on helping deal with these tremendous costs.