This is the first of two blogs (today and tomorrow) on an important topic. I hope you find it helpful.
Dementia is a costly, heart-breaking and life-altering syndrome that is nearly doubling in numbers of people affected worldwide every 20 years. Dementia has affected the likes of Norman Rockwell, E.B. White, Rita Hayworth, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan, Charles Bronson, Margaret Thatcher and many other well-known people. It does not discriminate based on station in life, and its effects are widely dispersed.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability, severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is one such example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, but is diagnosed when at least two of the following core mental functions are significantly impaired: memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception.
These symptoms can be displayed when the person with dementia has problems with short-term memory, keeping track of his/her purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments, or travelling out of the neighborhood. These often progressive symptoms will likely eventually necessitate assistance with daily activities, resulting in increased expense and stress on the individual, their family members, and society at large.
The RAND Corporation recently concluded a nearly decade-long study on close to 11,000 people. The study sheds light on dementia statistics including rates of diagnosis and costs to society. The results of this study were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine in early April 2013. The study’s reliability is significant—it was led by an independent, non-advocacy group and financed by the federal government.
According to the RAND Corporation’s study, the cost of caring for those with dementia is projected to double by 2040 and is currently higher than caring for those with heart disease or cancer. The direct costs of dementia, including the cost of medicine and nursing homes, was $109 billion a year in 2010 compared to $102 billion for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer. This cost is pushed even higher, to $215 billion, when support from family members or other loved ones is given a cost value. This figure will rise to $511 billion by 2040.
Part II will be tomorrow's blog.
References: www.alz.co.uk; The Wall Street Journal, Dementia Will Take Toll on Health-Care Spending, April 8, 2013; https://www.rand.org/news/press/2013/04/03.html