Most of us know of someone who has been diagnosed with dementia. It is a costly and heart-breaking condition that is nearly doubling in numbers every 20 years. Dementia has affected the likes of Norman Rockwell, E.B. White, Rita Hayworth, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan, Charles Bronson, Margaret Thatcher and many others.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Symptoms can vary, but there are usually two core mental functions significantly impaired: memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception. These symptoms can be displayed when the person with dementia has problems with short-term memory, keeping track of his/her purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments, or travelling out of the neighborhood. These often progressive symptoms will likely eventually require assistance with daily activities, resulting in increased expense and stress on the individual and their family members.
The RAND Study
The RAND Corporation recently concluded a nearly decade-long study on close to 11,000 people. The study sheds light on dementia statistics including rates of diagnosis and costs to society.
The Cost of Dementia to Society
According to the RAND Corporation’s study, the cost of caring for those with dementia is projected to double by 2040 and is currently higher than caring for those with heart disease or cancer. The direct costs of dementia, including the cost of medicine and nursing homes, was $109 billion a year in 2010 compared to $102 billion for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer. This cost is pushed even higher, to $215 billion, when support from family members or other loved ones is given a cost value. This figure will rise to $511 billion by 2040. Information from the RAND study and from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services indicates that, by 2020, dementia patients will ac-count for about 10% of the elderly population.
The Cost of Dementia to the Family
While the cost to society is great, the costs to individuals diagnosed with dementia and their loved ones is even more significant. As evidenced by the RAND study, each individual case of dementia costs between $41,000 and $56,000 a year. In addition to the financial drain on families, dementia increases the stress on the caregiver. In fact, caregivers have been found to be at increased risk for depression and anxiety and long term medical problems, which impose a further financial burden on the family.
Dementia poses higher costs to society and individuals than heart disease or cancer. With help from an Elder Law attorney, the family of those afflicted with dementia can obtain the support they need to care properly for their loved one. We can help clients prepare or deal with an immediate need to find appropriate resources in dealing with dementia, as well as handle all your general estate planning needs. We can support the loved one in making sure the dementia patient has access to the care and medical attention they need. We would be honored to help.
The Wall Street Journal, Dementia Will Take Toll on Health-Care Spending, April 8, 2013 Care Spending, April 8, 2013