Every 66 seconds an American develops Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that frequency is expected to increase to one every 33 seconds. While the number of U.S. deaths from Alzheimer’s has doubled in the last 14 years, those from other major diseases have been declining. Why? Because there is no known way to prevent, cure or even slow Alzheimer’s. Only medical breakthroughs can change that.
If Congress does not prioritize Alzheimer’s research funding, the disease will continue not only to devastate American families, but could also bankrupt Medicare and further deplete Medicaid. Here are three reasons why:
1 . Baby boomers are rapidly reaching retirement age, entering long-term care facilities and applying for benefits: The cost of care for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is an estimated $259 billion in 2017 alone — more than a quarter of a trillion dollars.
Medicare and Medicaid pay about two-thirds, or $175 billion, of the total health care and long-term coverage costs for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Nearly one in five Medicare dollars currently is spent on people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and as baby boomers continue to age this will grow to one in every three dollars by 2050.
The health care system already is feeling the burden of this fatal disease. Annual costs for someone with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is $23,487, or triple the $7,223 figure for Medicare beneficiaries without these conditions.
And today, one in four seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is on Medicaid, the only public program that covers the long-term nursing home stays that most people with dementia require in the late stages of the disease.
2. Caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s often are left without appropriate and necessary support, and forced to sacrifice physical, financial and emotional health: Today more than 15 million Americans are caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s. They provide more than an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care annually.
Out-of-pocket costs for Americans with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia are nearly five times higher, on average, than for those without.
In addition to the actual cost burden, 59 percent of those caring for family members with Alzheimer’s or other dementias report “high” or “very high” emotional stress.
3. Researchers lack the necessary funding to fully understand, treat and combat Alzheimer’s and other dementias: Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. partly because research into it has been underfunded.
Thankfully, Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has nearly tripled in the last five years, including a $400 million increase that was in the FY 2017 budget. This marked the second consecutive year that Congress approved a historic funding increase for Alzheimer’s. But there is still a long way to go if the nation is to stay on track to meet the first goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s—to effectively treat and prevent Alzheimer’s by 2025.
It is critical for the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and their more than 15 million caregivers, that lawmakers continue to prioritize and fund Alzheimer’s research because it’s time for our first Alzheimer’s survivor.