Cost of Alzheimer’s Care in the U.S. in 2012: $200 Billion

As the U.S. population continues to age, the costs — both financial and emotional — of Alzheimer's disease will rise as well, unless new research and policies start to address the burden.

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Alzheimer’s disease will cost the U.S. an estimated $200 billion in 2012, according to the latest data released by the Alzheimer’s Association.

In its annual report released Thursday, the organization says that costs for treating Alzheimer’s continue to rise. That’s because most people with the neurodegenerative disorder tend to have other chronic conditions as well, such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. Treating patients with both Alzheimer’s and other conditions is often more expensive because they require more frequent and lengthier stays in the hospital, due in part to complications that arise when they fail to take their medications properly and do not recover well from health events.

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Unlike many other chronic conditions, much of the cost for caring for Alzheimer’s patients falls on families, who either become full- or part-time caregivers or pay for hospice care. The latest data show that the burden on caregivers is continuing to balloon. Following is a breakdown of the newest findings on how Alzheimer’s disease is affecting our health care system and who is paying the price for the emerging wave of patients.

  • Every 68 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, someone will develop the disease every 33 seconds
  • Between 2000 and 2008, there was a 66% increase in patients dying of Alzheimer’s disease, compared with a 13% decrease in those dying from heart disease, a 29% drop in those dying of HIV, and a 3% decline in those dying from breast cancer
  • Medicare and Medicaid together pay for 70%, or $140 billion, of the cost of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, while families pay out-of-pocket for 17% of the health care for these patients
  • 33% of those caring for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients are between the ages of 55 and 64, and 23% are between aged 45 to 54
  • 43% of caregivers provide care for Alzheimer’s patients for an average of 1 to 4 years
  • 61% of caregivers reported high or very high emotional and physical stress due to their responsibility for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • 65% of caregivers reported that their duties interfered with their work schedule, forcing them to come in late, leave early or take time off
  • 20% of caregivers had to take a leave of absence to care for their loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • 13% of caregivers shifted from full-time to part-time jobs to make more time for their caregiving duties
  • 11% of caregivers gave up their job to devote themselves to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia

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Alice Park is a writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @aliceparkny. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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