Alzheimer's and other dementias - Statistics & Facts

The term dementia is used to describe not one specific disease but a wide range of symptoms. The most well-known and pronounced symptoms of dementia include memory loss and a decrease in the ability to think. Other symptoms include difficulties speaking or problems with language, emotional problems, visual problems, and a general decrease in the ability to reason, make judgements, focus and pay attention. The most recognized and common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for over half of all cases. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Risk factors for dementia include age and genetics as well as a poor diet, a lack of physical exercise, smoking, and poor general cardiovascular health. In 2015, it was estimated that around 46.78 million people suffered from dementia worldwide, costing around 820 billion U.S. dollars a year in care costs.

While the death rate in the United States for HIV, heart disease, and stroke have all decreased in the last 15 years, the death rate from Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 123 percent. In 2015, the death rate for Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. among those aged 45 to 54 years was .2 per 100,000 population. Alzheimer’s prevalence and death rates increase greatly with age however, with the death rate that same year among those aged 75 to 84 reaching 175.4 per 100,000 population. Although there is currently no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a number of drugs are developed each year in an attempt to ease the burden of such diseases.

Similar to the global costs of dementia, the cost of Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. is substantial. In 2018, it was estimated that the cost of care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to Medicare and Medicaid was 186 billion dollars, with this figure predicted to increase to some 750 billion by 2050. Out-of-pocket costs for older people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are also significant, reaching a total of 60 billion dollars between 2011 and 2018. The presence of Alzheimer’s or other dementias increases the annual mean payment per Medicare beneficiary among those aged 65 years and older in a number of care settings including inpatient hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and home health care.

Caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is not only expensive, but can be extremely trying and stressful for caregivers. In 2017, there were over 16 million caregivers for patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, with around 1.6 million in the state of California alone. In 2017, it was found that 16 percent of informal caregivers of Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients had to take a leave of absence from their job due to their caregiving responsibilities while 9 percent had to give up working entirely.

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