As the baby boomers age, health concerns affecting elderly people will have dramatic effects on the health care industry and the daily lives of families caring for declining loved ones.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Alzheimer’s patients could triple by 2050, from 5 million to nearly 16 million unless a cure is found. Currently, there is no way to prevent the disease or slow its progress, though a few medications can provide temporary symptom relief.
Why should the average tax payer care? The explosion of Alzheimer’s cases will have an impact on American society, and all of us will feel the aftershocks.
It’ll Hit You in the Wallet
Americans are spending more to treat Alzheimer’s than any other disease. The cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients is expected to hit $214 billion in 2014, and most of those patients are on Medicare. Just under 20 percent of Medicare and Medicaid spending is devoted to treating Alzheimer’s.
In fact Medicare and Medicaid together will shell out an estimated $150 billion of that $214 billion figure. Even worse, by 2050 the cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients could reach $1.2 trillion.
Imagine how much those programs will have to grow by 2050 to meet the increasing need. The combined budgets for Medicare and Medicaid are $755 billion per year now. By 2050, they’re going to need $690 billion more just to keep up with the increased demand for Alzheimer’s care.
It’ll Hit You at Home
While science has made incredible strides in treating most of the conditions that kill us, it has gotten exactly nowhere with Alzheimer’s. Consequently, you and your loved ones are more likely to die of Alzheimer’s now than you were 10 years ago.
Between 2000 and 2010 Alzheimer’s deaths increased 68 percent. All other top 10 causes of death, including cancer and heart disease, saw decreases in mortality rates during that same time period.
It’ll Last Much Longer Than You Expect
Part of the reason Alzheimer’s is so expensive to treat is that it’s a slow killer. On average patients live an additional eight years after diagnosis, but they can live up to 20.
Most Alzheimer’s patients require 24/7 care, which can put a tremendous strain on a family. That’s also a big part of why it’s so expensive to treat. Alzheimer’s patients often don’t remember to bath, eat or take their medicines. They may endanger themselves by wandering to an unfamiliar place or forgetting they put soup on the stove to cook. Thirty-seven percent of elderly people receiving non-medical care have some form of dementia.
It’ll Hit You at Work
The need for someone to watch over mom and dad will only increase over the next ten years, requiring family members to step in or pay someone else to do it. Even if you don’t personally, face this dilemma, you will work with people who do. Those who are trying to juggle elder care and work are less focused on their jobs, and miss work more frequently.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 65 percent of employees who also take care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s report having to go to work late, leave early or take time off to meet the patient’s needs.
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