For the second consecutive year, total payments to care for people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are predicted to exceed a quarter of a trillion dollars, according to the Alzheimer's Association's 2018 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report released Tuesday.
The projected $277 billion total is an increase of almost $20 billion from last year. By 2050, costs are expected to surpass $1 trillion.
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The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is increasing every year. According to the report, an estimated 5.7 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's, and someone develops the disease every 65 seconds. By 2050, an estimated 14 million people will be diagnosed.
These rapidly increasing numbers make the disease, which has no cure, one of the most expensive in the country. However, the report hypothesizes that early identification of the disease during the mild cognitive impairment stage could save the nation as much as $7.9 trillion over the lifetimes of those living with it.
"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," said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association. "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."
Early diagnosis can also benefit patients' caregivers and family members. In 2017, 16.1 million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, according to the report. These caregivers provided an estimated 18.4 billion hours of care valued at more than $232 billion. Additionally, the stress associated with providing care to these patients resulted in an estimated $11.4 billion in added healthcare costs for their caregivers.
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the report. From 2000 to 2015, deaths from the disease increased 123 percent, while deaths from heart disease decreased 11 percent, and 1 in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.
Fargo said that while advances in science lead to fewer deaths from heart disease or cancer, there haven't been similar breakthroughs in Alzheimer's or dementia research. These, he said, will only come from making the research a national priority.
"Discoveries in science mean fewer people are dying at an early age from heart disease, cancer and other diseases," Fargo said. "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."
Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report