As baby boomers edge ever closer to their golden years, they are having a profound and impactful change on society—both culturally and medically. In the last few years, we’ve seen a renewed focus on health care options and disease research thanks in no small part to the health concerns of this large segment of society. And it’s not only medical professionals and the government that are taking notice, so is the entertainment industry.
An increasing number of popular shows, like the Sopranos and Mad Men, have featured issues related to elderly care, like including characters with Alzheimer’s. While these trends do show that society is becoming more aware of senior care issues, it does not necessarily mean that we are prepared to handle all of them.
The future of Alzheimer’s care, for example, is far from certain.
As the leading cause of dementia in the US, over 5 million Americans currently suffer from the disease—a number which is expected to increase to over 13.5 million by the year 2050. This increase in the number of aging Americans living with Alzheimer’s is expected to strain the resources of care centers, medical professionals and caregivers alike as the healthcare industry struggles to keep up with the growing demands and costs of memory care.
Alzheimer’s Cost Estimates
A recent report issued by the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that the costs of treating Alzheimer’s could rise to more than $1 trillion a year by 2025. By 2050, it’s estimated that 6.5 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s will be in the most severe stage of the disease so their treatment costs will be the highest.
Currently, it costs around $226 billion a year to treat people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Of that amount, Medicare and Medicaid pick up about 68 percent of the cost, making the future rise in costs of great concern for the government and for you as a taxpayer. These cost estimates could be drastically reduced, however, if a cure or effective treatments are found.
Don't Postpone Alzheimer's Planning
Part of the problem with Alzheimer’s is that it carries the stigma of begin a disease of “old people.” While it is true that the majority of Alzheimer’s sufferers are over the age of 65, at least one recent study has shown that the earliest signs of the disease, protein build up in the brain, can be found in people as young as 20—50 years before the onset of memory loss and other characteristic symptoms.
Don’t wait until the first signs of the disease appear to start planning.
Alzheimer’s is a disease of the mind, which makes the sufferer believe that they are still in control, and a diagnosis often comes once symptoms are well-advanced. When planning for retirement or the care of an aging parent, potential memory care must be a part of your plan, especially if others in your family have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Help Support Adequate Funding
Due to the impending explosion of seniors with Alzheimer’s, many advocates are urging the government to change how they allocate their spending for disease research. They want the funding amounts to correlate with the actual and predicted costs that the nation will face to manage the disease.
Current spending sits right around half a billion. With $2 billion per year, researchers would have a much better chance of finding medications and treatments that can reduce the future costs of Alzheimer’s care. When compared with other major diseases that impact public health policies, this number is actually low. The government currently allocates $3 billion a year in spending on research for HIV and AIDS and around $6 billion a year on researching cancer. And cancer only costs the nation around $66 billion a year, while estimates place the cost of Alzheimer’s at $110 billion annually.
You can help fight Alzheimer’s disease by donating or becoming an advocate to persuade Congress to prioritize spending on research and care.