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Dementia Care Costs Expected to Double by 2040

Senior abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins point to a new study that found that patients with dementia can expect to pay more than those with cancer or heart disease in the next few decades. Both the cost and the number of Americans diagnosed with the degenerative disease are expected to double by 2040.

The study was headed by an economist at the RAND Corporation, which is an international non-profit research and analysis organization, and financed by the federal government. Currently, the cost of treating dementia in the U.S. ranges from $157 to $215 billion per year, the highest amounts going into institutional and in-home long-term care.

The aging baby boomers are significantly contributing to this rise in dementia diagnosis and care, which the country seems to be largely unprepared for. The National Alzheimer’s Plan’s advisory chairman, Dr. Ronald Peterson, told the New York Times that this surge is going to swamp the system. He went on to say that the numbers RAND projected are even somewhat conservative. Peterson is also the director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, which is also currently collecting data on dementia’s healthcare costs.

RAND determined that almost 15% of the 71 and over population – or about 3.8 million Americans – are currently suffering from dementia. Over the next 30 years, the number is expected to surge to 9.1 million. Further intensifying the problem is that the baby boomers, on average, have fewer children than their parents did, which means less people to care for them, which subsequently means more reliance on nursing homes, assisted living centers, and in-home caregivers.

The current direct cost to the healthcare system from dementia is $109 billion. To put this in perspective, the healthcare costs for cancer total about $77 billion. This does not take into account the amount paid for informal dementia care performed by relatives.

The bulk of these costs (between 75 to 84%) stem from aiding dementia patients in nursing homes. This is due to the degenerative and long-term nature of the disease, which impairs cognitive functions slowly, until the patient is wholly dependent both mentally and physically on caregivers. According to the study, each dementia patient costs between $41,000 and $56,000 a year to care for. RAND used data collected from the Health and Retirement Study database, studying nearly 11,000 people over a ten year period.

In 2011, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which increases national efforts to discover new treatments for dementia and improve care. The Act also requires the economic costs of dementia care to be tracked and recorded.

What the RAND study did not taken into account for, however, are the emotional costs of dementia. For those taking care of a related dementia patient at home, the emotional, mental, and spiritual toll cannot be understated. Most dementia patients are merely a shell of who they once were. For those dementia patients who are under the care of nursing home staffs, the reality is often significantly grimmer. Unfortunately, there is a very high prevalence of abuse and neglect among dementia patients in nursing homes.

Due to the pursuit of profits, nursing homes are often understaffed, causing existing staff to be overworked and in turn leading to depression and anxiety. The occurrence of psychological aggression among caregivers has been reported from a low of 30% to a high of 60%, and reports of the occurrence of physical abuse among dementia patients range from 6% to 23%. Dementia patients at the most risk of mistreatment include those with poor financial status, less social contacts, and more severe cognitive impairment.

This is why it is critically important for the families of loved ones in nursing homes to visit them on a consistent basis. Abusive or neglectful employees notice if a resident rarely receives visitors and are more likely to mistreat them. Abuse and neglect in nursing home residents can range from verbal threats, to rape, to monetary theft. The most common indication of negligence is bedsores, or pressure ulcers, which occur when a patient is left in one position for extended periods of time. Other indications abuse or neglect is occurring are unexplained bruises, sudden weight loss, fear or emotional recluse, and overmedication.

Elder abuse attorneys at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience advocating on behalf of dementia patients are their families. If you suspect your loved one is being mistreated by nursing home employees or at-home caregivers, it is critical you contact skilled attorney as soon as possible. We can help you expose the abuse and obtain the maximum compensation for your loved one’s pain and suffering.