Mar

25

2013

Alzheimer's: New Stats Show Early Intervention Key to Cost Control

Sheldon Levinson, Ph.D.

The costs associated with Alzheimer’s Disease are becoming increasingly apparent, and quite staggering, with many illuminating statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.  More than five million Americans have been diagnosed with the illness, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.  Estimated payments for treatment were estimated to be $200 billion dollars for 2012, and are projected to greatly increase in coming years.  (Alzheimer’s Association. 2012 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures.  Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, March 2012; 8:131-168.)  Recent findings suggest that one in three elderly adults have some form of dementia at the time of death, and the presence of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 70 doubles the likelihood of death by the age of 80. 

However, the statistics generally provided regarding Alzheimer’s do not include the equally important emotional and relational costs that accompany the illness.  For example, how can we put a price tag on the inability to recognize a spouse, child or grandchild?  What is the emotional cost of a couple, having lived together for multiple decades, being required to pursue residential placement to insure adequate care for a sick partner?  And yet it is these types of issues that impact those affected by the illness in the deepest ways.  Early diagnosis and treatment is critical, not just because of the monetary factors involved in the illness, but more importantly because of the devastating emotional costs of the disease as it progresses.  One of the most rewarding aspects of working in the field is having the opportunity to delay these consequences.  Appropriate assessment of potential symptoms at the earliest possible time is crucial for reducing these financial and emotional costs.


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