Getting sick is expensive. And so is dying… especially from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
A recent study revealed that of the three leading killers in America – dementia, cancer and heart disease – dementia was by far the most expensive to treat before a patient’s eventual death. So, postponing its onset can be beneficial to both patients and families paying bills.
An Annals of Medicine fall study revealed that of patients followed for five years until their deaths in 2010, those suffering from dementia were far and away the most expensive to treat: $287,000 per deceased. That’s more than $100,000 greater than either heart disease or cancer for the same period.
Out-of-pocket costs to treat dementia tallied over $61,000, often impoverishing or bankrupting patients and their families.
Why is dementia so much more expensive? Because unlike most of those with cancer and heart disease, people suffering from dementia almost inevitably end up with around-the-clock supervision and assistance with feeding, clothing and bathing
So it was with great fanfare than in December President Obama signed legislation earmarking an additional $350 million for Alzheimer’s research in hopes of slowing – or curing – a disease that affects five million Americans.
How much of that money will flow to California? It’s hard to tell.
California currently has six federal Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers spread throughout the UC system, Stanford University, and USC – one in five nationwide. Still, the eventual request for proposal process will be available to anyone conducting Alzheimer’s research. (The state formerly had seven centers until UCLA lost its latest round of five-year Alzheimer’s funding.)
One of the central tenets of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is offering incentives to keep patients healthy rather than simply rewarding treatments for the sick. Slowing progression of the disease can greatly improve quality of life while reducing healthcare costs.
While the Alzheimer’s Association claims there is currently no way to slow the spread of the disease, there are several mainstream and alternative researchers who claim otherwise, including Dr. Dale Bredesen, formerly head of UCLA’s Alzheimer’s center.
Meanwhile, the California Culture Change Coalition is working earnestly to change perceptions of dementia in nursing homes, turning the tables on the disease to see it as a potentially beneficial experience.