The Alzheimer’s Association recently released its 2016 Alzheimer’s facts and figures report earlier this month with a long list of many facts and figures, as the reports name implies. While the Alzheimer’s Association produces and publishes its report yearly, the 2016 report highlights the personal financial impact that the disease has on family caregivers. Most specifically, the report helps to show the amazing costs that are shouldered by American families in caring for patients with not just Alzheimer’s but dementia and those with general cognitive delays. In New York alone there are estimated to be 390,000 Alzheimer patients. The Alzheimer’s Association also estimates that there will be approximately 460,000 patients by 2025, an increase of approximately 20%. Overall, 4.7 million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to triple by 2050. The emotional impact is already high, yet there is hope. Dr. Samuel Cohen gave a TED talk in late 2015 outlining breakthroughs that could spell a cure for the disease, which would in turn mean that the above numbers would indeed need to be revised.
As for the caregivers, there are approximately 16 million of you in the country who give your time and energy for your loved ones without any financial recompense. You give 18 billion hours of unpaid care for your parents, grandparents and other family members. National Public Radio (NPR) produced a report on the financial impact to individuals and families on March 30, 2016 which showed that the average caretaker used their own financial resources to help their loved ones with Alzheimer’s. The average cost was around $400 per month ($4,800 per year), although some spent up to $10,000 per year to help their relatives with Alzheimer’s. Oftentimes, the caretaker had to make choices between of certain necessities, for example, between food and medical care. As if the financial hit was not enough, it often necessitated that the caretaker reduce their own working hours to care for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s, thereby reducing their income even further. Many caretakers had to sell their own personal belongings to help make ends meet. Some were even reduced to basic poverty levels.
It is perhaps fortunate that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease which can be identified and dealt with through various medical and legal means to help mitigate the impact the disease may have on a family and most particularly the patient. Many of the warning signs point to larger cognitive delays. More particularly:
- Problems with remembering things to the point that it disrupts the life of not only the patient but those around him/her; and
- Difficulty with basic math, such as tracking monthly bills or balancing a checking account, when he/she did so for years without issue; and
- Difficulty with the location of certain very familiar places, such as forgetting where a close friend lives, who happens to live only several miles down the road; and
- Losing track of times and dates, some Alzheimer’s patients start to talk about things that happened decades ago, some war veterans discuss events that happened during war that they never disclosed to anyone; and
- Problems with words, sometimes even simple words in conversations or writing, such as making a grocery list or a list of chores to complete; and
- Withdrawal from social and work related activities; and
- Changes in mood and personality.