The impact of a dementia treatment

By Bruce Miller

     Dementia is a collection of symptoms caused by a number of different disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. The term dementia describes a progressive decline in memory or other cognitive functions that interferes with the ability to perform your usual daily activities (driving, shopping, balancing a checkbook, working, communicating, etc.). One of the major risk factors for developing dementia is age, meaning the older you are, the more likely you are to develop it. Age-related risk applies to many other conditions like heart disease and vascular problems, which means a single person may have two or more concurrent health problems leading to cognitive, behavioral, or motor symptoms. This co-morbidity can make both diagnosis and treatment more complicated.

     In the recent study by Michael Hurd of RAND, the estimated prevalence of dementia in people over age 70 in the US in 2010 was 14.7%. They calculated “that dementia leads to total annual societal costs of $41,000 to $56,000 per case, with a total cost of $159 billion to $215 billion nationwide in 2010.” Furthermore, the “aging of the US population will result in an increase of nearly 80% in total societal costs per adult by 2040.” This means an anticipated $73,800–100,800 per adult in 2040. In 2050, the oldest-old are projected to grow from 5.8 million in 2010 to 19 million, with people 85 and over accounting for 4.3% of the of the population (US Census Bureau). As there is no cure for dementia yet, these costs are largely driven by the costs involved in helping people live their daily lives—something that dementia makes progressively harder to do. “The main component of the costs attributable to dementia is the cost for institutional and home-based long-term care rather than the costs of medical services — the sum of the costs for nursing home care and formal and informal home care represent 75 to 84% of attributable costs” (Hurd et al. 2013).  Read More