The Alzheimer’s Association just released 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report sheds light on the staggering cost of unpaid caregiving provided by family members caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Nearly 15 million people in the United States care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, amounting to 17 billion hours or more than $202 billion in unpaid care, according to the report.
The physical and emotional costs are also soaring. The report estimates that caregivers themselves experienced $7.9 billion in additional health care costs in 2010 due to the toll of caregiving on their health.
If these caregivers all lived in one U.S. state, it would be the nation’s fifth largest, said the report, which highlights the rapidly growing impact of Alzheimer’s, a fatal brain-wasting disease that erodes memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to handle daily activities.
“Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t just affect those with it. It invades families and the lives of everyone around them,” Harry Johns, president and chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a statement.
An estimated 5.4 million people in the United States currently live with Alzheimer’s disease, up from 5.3 million a year ago. That includes 5.2 million people over age 65 or about one in eight senior citizens.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed, according to the association. Deaths from Alzheimer’s have risen 66 percent from 2000-2008 while death rates for most other major diseases declined.
Advocates call Alzheimer’s disease the nation’s largest underfunded health threat, and that’s for today. As the post-war generation ages the number of people living with Alzheimer’s is expected to double. How we respond and treat people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers will come to define the post-war generation in their final years.