An article from the 2018 issue of Seniors Housing & Care Journal examined the coming challenge of providing adequate care for the growing number of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Due to the impending demographic shift toward an older population, the number of Americans age 65 and older living with some form of dementia is expected to rise from 5.7 million to about 14 million by 2050. Based on this, the author argued that dementias will present significant financial and care challenges in the near future.
The combined personal costs of out-of-pocket expenditures, value of unpaid care by family members, and cost of care in assisted living or nursing care amounts to about $342,000 total lifetime cost of dementia. The average American family is not prepared for this kind of expense and, if this rate of spending continues, the US will spend more than $1 trillion annually on dementia care by 2040.
One way to ease the financial burden for families would be to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid programs. Finding more stable sources of funding that do not rely as heavily on state budgets may be another option. In either case, much more support and better training must be provided to family caregivers in order to offset this cost.
Another avenue is to provide more support for research into Alzheimer’s and related dementias, including novel treatments and ways to identify dementia sooner, as well as a possible cure. There has been progress in this regard, but it may not come quickly enough, considering that the necessary systematic changes to the health care system delay the impact of better treatments even further. There has also been a recent trend in development of technologies designed to help care for older adults; more research in this area will be necessary as well.
With more adults living longer, and therefore more likely to develop dementia, senior living and aging services organizations will also feel these effects. Addressing the workforce shortage will be key, for which the author recommended offering additional training and enhancing career advancement opportunities for workers.
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Dawson WD. Impact on care of an increasing population living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: The 21st Century challenge. Seniors Housing & Care Journal (2018); 26(1): 96-102.