Nearly 15 Million Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers Provide Unpaid Care Valued at More Than $200 Billion

Mar 15, 2011, 00:01 ET from Alzheimer's Association

Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's and Timely Intervention Can Lead to Better Planning

CHICAGO, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- According to 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, released today by the Alzheimer's Association, there are nearly 15 million Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers in the United States. This new report shows that there are far more Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers than previously believed – 37% more than reported last year.  These individuals provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $202.6 billion. If Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers were the only residents of a single state it would be the 5th largest state in the country.

Studies indicate that people 65 and older survive an average of four to eight years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, yet some live as long as 20 years. The prolonged duration of this disease often places increasingly intense demands on the millions of family members and friends who provide care to those with Alzheimer's. Facts and Figures reveals that Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers have an increased potential to develop their own serious health issues. Those complications represent a financial burden of nearly $8 billion in increased healthcare costs.

"Alzheimer's disease doesn't just affect those with it. It invades families and the lives of everyone around them," said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association. "It is stressful and heartbreaking to see someone you love trapped in a present where their past is fading and their future too frightening to contemplate. Nearly 15 million dedicated and committed family members and friends are living with this every day."

Escalating Impact of Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

Today, an estimated 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer's disease. While the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease is age, Alzheimer's is not normal aging. Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Based on mortality data from 2000-2008, death rates have declined for most major diseases – heart disease (-13 percent), breast cancer (-3 percent), prostate cancer (-8 percent), stroke (-20 percent) and HIV/AIDS (-29) − while deaths from Alzheimer's disease have risen 66 percent during the same period.

The Alzheimer's Association estimates that total payments for health and long-term care services for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias will amount to $183 billion in 2011, which is $11 billion more than in 2010.

Medicare and Medicaid costs will make up the majority of this increase. By 2050, Medicare costs for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias will increase nearly 600 percent and Medicaid costs will soar almost 400 percent.

"The projected rise in Alzheimer's incidence will become an enormous balloon payment for the nation – a payment that will exceed 1 trillion dollars by 2050," said Robert Egge, Vice President for Public Policy for the Alzheimer's Association. "It is clear our government must make a smart commitment in order make these costs unnecessary."

Early Detection, Diagnosis and Hope

The 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report also explores the issue of early detection and diagnosis.  Alzheimer's and dementia is a costly and often unrecognized problem in older adults. Increasing evidence suggests that early diagnosis of Alzheimer's and timely intervention is beneficial, both for people with the disease and their caregivers. Experts believe that early detection of Alzheimer's disease and early interventions with improved therapies provide the greatest hope to delay or stop additional damage to the brain.

"For people affected by irreversible cognitive decline or dementia, a formal and documented diagnosis helps the individual and their family explain and expect behaviors, and opens doors to vital care and support services," said Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services. "A diagnosis can help reduce the anxiety and emotional burden experienced by opening access to valuable support services."

Early detection also allows for prompt evaluation and treatment of reversible or treatable causes of cognitive impairment. If Alzheimer's is diagnosed, it allows the growing number of families affected by the disease the opportunity to consider which medical and non-medical services are available – including the option of participating in clinical trials.

Full text of the Alzheimer's Association's 2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures can be viewed at after the embargo lifts. The full report will also appear in the March 2011 issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association (Volume 7, Issue 2).

Alzheimer's Association's Facts and Figures

The Alzheimer's Association's Facts and Figures report is a comprehensive compilation of national

statistics and information on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. The report conveys the impact of Alzheimer's on individuals, families, government and the nation's health care system. Since its 2007 inaugural release, the report has become the most cited source covering the broad spectrum of Alzheimer's issues. The Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report is an official publication of the Alzheimer's Association.

Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

SOURCE Alzheimer's Association