Alzheimer’s is one of the diseases that fall under the umbrella term, dementia. The effects are austere. It reduces one’s cognitive responses such that one eventually begins to lose their basic abilities to do even the most fundamental tasks. Out of the blue, it creeps up on you and you slowly begin to question even the most obvious and straightforward things in your life.
First, you find it almost impossible to recall recent events. Then, you start to wonder who the people around you are. Who are these people? The one who keeps calling me dad, what is her name? Are we related to each other? Eventually, that becomes the least of your struggle because you can no longer comprehend anything around you. You no longer know who you are or what your name even is. As time goes on, you lose the most basic human abilities and health care has at that very moment, become your sole reliance. However, what happens when healthcare comes with a price that you just don’t have? (Well, don’t worry because it’s no longer your concern!)
Alzheimer’s disease has been proven to be the most common cause of dementia in the United States. At the moment, there are almost six million Americans who are suffering from that and the statistical data shows that the condition is simply deteriorating. The calculated sum of the healthcare for dementia cases has come to a domineering $277 billion in the United States per year. At first glance, the astronomical figure may seem insanely high but that is not all. The Alzheimer’s Association’s annual report has also taken the liberty to find out the invisible costs. These include the time and effort as well as energy exerted by the patients’ caregivers.
“In 2017, 16 million Americans provided an estimated 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care in the form of physical, emotional and financial support – a contribution to the nation valued at $232.1 billion. The difficulties associated with providing this level of care are estimated to have resulted in $11.4 billion in additional healthcare costs for Alzheimer’s and other dementia caregivers in 2017,” the Alzheimer’s Association reports.
Altogether that makes up about $500 billion, a large portion of the nation’s accumulated wealth. It is no doubt costly to provide for victims of Alzheimer’s disease, or any dementia cases for that matter. On a smaller narrative, each patient requires about $341,000 from the beginning to the end. Of that excessive cost, seventy percent typically come directly out of the families’ pocket. Aside from that, the report has also mentioned that a majority of the people who are providing are women. They are the ones who are looking after their parents, spouses, siblings and even friends who have been taken by dementia.
Women take up two-thirds of the portion that is doing the work whereas one-third of that are the children of the patient. Family, friends and other voluntary members make up 83 percent of the total care provided for these patients. Such arduous work will eventually lead to health problems on those who are providing. Requiring more than twenty hours per week on average, the report takes into consideration the possible heart problems and depression that caregivers often suffer from.
“The sooner the diagnosis occurs, the sooner these costs can be managed, and savings can begin,” Keith Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association has asserted.
Unfortunately, there is no definite cure for Alzheimer’s disease as of yet. Nonetheless, like any other health issues, the early one is diagnosed, the better it will be overall in terms of time, money and energy. Needless to say, if a patient was diagnosed in early stages, say mild cognitive impairment (MCI) for instance, they could reduce the financial burden. This is because they will be able to better prepare themselves for the impending tragedy. In addition, transforming their lifestyles for the better by working out consistently, being on a healthier diet as well as eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking can aid in the situation.
“While current therapies do not prevent, halt or reverse Alzheimer’s disease, they can temporarily improve and prolong cognitive function in many individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia. An early diagnosis also enables potential safety issues, such as problems with driving or wandering, to be addressed ahead of time. When further testing shows reversible or treatable causes (for example, depression, obstructive sleep apnea or vitamin B12 deficiency) rather than Alzheimer’s disease, early diagnosis can lead to treatment and improvement of cognition and quality of life,” the report concludes.
Featured image via flickr/ Pictures of Money