New Alzheimer's Association Report Reveals Sharp Increases in Alzheimer's Prevalence, Deaths, and Cost of Care
For the second consecutive year, total payments to care for individuals living with Alzheimer's or other dementias are projected to surpass a quarter of a trillion dollars ($277 billion), which includes an increase of nearly $20 billion over last year, according to data reported in the Alzheimer's Association 2018 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report released recently.
An accompanying special report, "Alzheimer's Disease: Financial and Personal Benefits of Early Diagnosis," highlights new economic modeling data indicating early diagnosis of Alzheimer's during the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage of the disease could save the nation as much as $7.9 trillion in health and long term care expenditures. The report also highlights personal benefits of early diagnosis for individuals and families.
New findings from the report show the growing burden of Alzheimer's on people living with the disease, their families, and caregivers, as well as society at large. The number of older Americans is growing rapidly, so too is the number of people living with Alzheimer's and the subsequent impact to the nation's economy. By 2050, the total cost of care for Alzheimer's is projected to increase to more than $1.1 trillion.
"This year's report illuminates the growing cost and impact of Alzheimer's on the nation's health care system, and also points to the growing financial, physical, and emotional toll on families facing this disease," says Keith Fargo, PhD, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association. "Soaring prevalence, rising mortality rates, and lack of an effective treatment all lead to enormous costs to society, Alzheimer's is a burden that's only going to get worse. We must continue to attack Alzheimer's through a multidimensional approach that advances research while also improving support for people with the disease and their caregivers."
Given the long duration of this disease, the strain on Alzheimer's caregivers can last several years and produce serious declines in caregiver physical, emotional, and financial well-being. 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 health care costs for Alzheimer's and other dementia caregivers in 2017.
Mortality from Alzheimer's disease continues to rise. While deaths from other major causes continue to decrease, new data from the report show that deaths from Alzheimer's disease have more than doubled, increasing 123% between 2000 and 2015. For context the number of deaths from heart disease—the number one killer in America—decreased 11%.
"Discoveries in science mean fewer people are dying at an early age from heart disease, cancer, and other diseases," Fargo says. "Similar scientific breakthroughs are needed for Alzheimer's disease, and will only be achieved by making it a national health care priority and increasing funding for research that can one day lead to early detection, better treatments and ultimately a cure."
The Impact of Alzheimer's Biomarkers and Earlier Diagnosis
Alzheimer's biomarkers are transforming the way that researchers and physicians understand the disease, from one based on symptoms to one based on changes in the brain. Individuals no longer need to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's after significant damage is already done to the brain. Instead, due to awareness of Alzheimer's and recognition of early symptoms, as well as the development and approval of beta-amyloid imaging biomarkers, Alzheimer's diagnosis can occur earlier in the disease process than ever before, such as in the MCI due to Alzheimer's stage of the disease.
The report also highlights new economic modeling data showing early diagnosis during the MCI stage of the disease would result in cost savings as much as $7.9 trillion over the lifetime of all Americans living today.
"Diagnosing Alzheimer's earlier has huge cost-savings implications," Fargo says. "Studies show the expenses associated with identification of people with mild cognitive impairment—the earliest stage at which clinical symptoms are present—are lower than those associated with people in the later stage of dementia. In addition, costs are lower once a person with Alzheimer's gets on the right care path. The disease is better managed, there are fewer complications from other chronic conditions, and unnecessary hospitalizations are avoided. The sooner the diagnosis occurs, the sooner these costs can be managed and savings can begin."
Earlier diagnosis was also associated with greater per-person savings. The new modeling data indicates that in today's environment—in which diagnosis usually occurs in the dementia stage if at all—the projected health and long term care costs of an individual with Alzheimer's is $424,000. Under an early diagnosis scenario in which an individual has a greater likelihood of being diagnosed during the MCI stage, the average per-person cost is projected to be $360,000—a savings of $64,000 per individual.
The special report also details personal benefits of early diagnosis, including the following:
Updated Alzheimer's Statistics
Prevalence, Incidence, and Mortality
Cost of Care
Source: Alzheimer's Association