A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating for a family. It can be a challenging time, but the burden of Alzheimer’s care shouldn’t all fall on one person. These are some statistics about caring for Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a poorly understood condition that robs an individual of the ability to communicate with the outside world. It accounts for sixty to eighty percent of adult dementia problems, most notably memory loss and cognitive impairment. Although most cases strike the population of age sixty five plus, there is also early-onset Alzheimer’s, and those patients need care as well.
Alzheimer’s is progressive, meaning that it continues to get worse over time. At the beginning, there may only be mild memory loss. Toward the end, the individual loses the ability to respond to his environment. A person lives typically four to eight years post diagnosis but can live much longer.
Who has it?
Alzheimer’s disease it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Currently, about 5.8 million Americans have it, and another person is diagnosed almost every minute in the U.S. The incidence has more than doubled since the year 2000, and one in every three seniors that passes away has it.
The main risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s Disease is age, but there are others as well. For reasons not well-understood, women are twice as likely to develop the disease as men. There may be a genetic factor, as is clearly seen in certain families, but in general it is not an inherited disease.
Otherwise, a healthy lifestyle is the only risk factor that can be controlled. People with proper health habits are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.
Who’s providing Alzheimer’s care?
More than eighty percent of caretakers for Alzheimer’s disease are unpaid family members. Almost half of all caretakers for the elderly in the U.S. are providing Alzheimer’s care. About two thirds of caretakers are family, with about one third daughters of the patient. Around one quarter of caretakers are also taking care of children under the age of eighteen – the sandwich generation, caring for the young and the elderly at the same time.
Who’s paying for it?
The more than eighty percent of people who provide Alzheimer’s care without being reimbursed in monetary payment work over sixteen million hours monthly. Their care time is valued at close to $234 billion.
Around seventy percent of total costs of providing Alzheimer’s care, the brunt of it, is carried privately, by the family, including outpatient care, long and short term costs, and the value of their care-taking time.
As the incidence of Alzheimer’s increases, the costs of dealing with it will continue to skyrocket. Researchers are looking for a cure, but currently there are only treatments for symptoms. There are some promising treatments in research that may delay the onset or stall the progression.
In the meantime, solutions for caretakers may come in the form of government funding for help or respite care options, including senior day centers or overnight stays in a facility.
Sinai Post Acute Care Center for Rehabilitation offers excellent Alzheimer’s care for patients when caretakers need someone else to take over, and longer term options when staying at home is no longer feasible.