The Healthcare Epidemic of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is a subset of dementia, which is classified by issues with memory function, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of Dementia in the United States, with cases of the disease continuing to grow exponentially as time goes on. There are currently over five and a half million Americans with Alzheimer’s Disease, and it appears that these numbers will worsen in coming decades. The disease is known to make patients experience progressively worsening memory function, which often inevitably leads to their inability to function socially and occupationally in old age. The disease brings forth a great burden to its patients caretakers and healthcare providers.
Dementia in Alzheimer’s Disease is the third mostly costly disease in the United States, with costs exceeding $100 billion dollars annually (Dharmarajan, 2009). In 2018, Alzheimer’s and other Dementias are projected to cost the United States over $277 billion dollars (Actionalz, 2018). Alzheimer’s Disease is also the 6th leading cause of death in the United States (Actionalz, 2018). The average annual cost of caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease is roughly $42,049 for an institutionalized patient, and roughly $12,572 for patients cared for among the community (Dharmarajan, 2009). In addition to this paid care, it is estimated that 16.1 million caregivers give unpaid care to Alzheimer’s patients valued at over $232 billion dollars (Actionalz, 2018). With the cost of care already high, and the forecast of exponential growth of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, it is important that the healthcare system create a plan to provide care for these patients in an economically efficient way.
One way to provide care in an economically efficient way is to provide early and accurate diagnosis to patients. It is projected that putting effort towards making this a reality could save the nation upwards of $7.9 trillion dollars (Actionalz, 2018). This can be accomplished by firstly educating the public about the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and encouraging them to schedule an appointment with their doctor for a screening. Secondly, it can be accomplished by structuring health care plans in a way that make brain scans more accessible and less daunting to patients finances. Most importantly, it can be accomplished by simply making doctor visits less of a burden on patients. This can be done by reducing co-pays, medical bills, and any other financial stressor involved with getting medical help.
In general, health care providers typically don’t look for Alzheimer’s disease in younger people. This allows the disease to develop in the shadows, creating an immense physical, mental, and financial burden on the patient. While keeping these financial numbers in mind, it is important that changes our made in our health-care system to lessen the financial burden of this disease on our country. It seems as though growing Alzheimer’s patient numbers are inevitable, as are the costs associated with those patients. This can be accomplished by lessening the cost of care for a patient who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease late in life, as well as lessening the cost of obtaining a diagnosis early in the disease’s development. Without making concrete changes to the health-care system, we should expect to spend an incredibly inefficient amount of money to care for our citizens with Alzheimer’s Diseases.