A Look Behind the Numbers on Alzheimer’s

Did your mother ever tell you not to talk about money? While it may not always come across as polite, when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, we don’t have a choice. A recent commentary  by Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, explains that the financial wellbeing of our health care system, and our communities, depends on action against Alzheimer’s disease now.

Johns noted that “A federal research investment of $2 billion a year between now and 2025, as suggested by the scientific community, would be recouped in the first three years after a treatment became available.” The alternative? Potentially bankrupting our Medicare system. For additional perspective, current projections show the number of Americans aged 65 and older living with the disease may triple to 16 million by 2050.  

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Last year, Alzheimer’s cost the U.S. approximately $214 billion, making it the most expensive disease in the nation. In fact, Medicare spends as much as three times for the care of people withAlzheimer’s disease as for the average beneficiary. For the more than five million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s, Medicare coverage includes inpatient hospital care, lab tests, speech and occupational therapy as well as hospice care for those in the advanced stages of the disease. 

Of course, these staggering numbers only tell part of the story. The overall impact of Alzheimer’s disease on families and communities across the world is immeasurable.  While these numbers compel researchers to action, it’s not just an effort to lower statistics. For caregivers and families across the world, just one more day can make a difference. Looking ahead to a growing global population of aging adults, we must plan for the future now.

As families, scientists, caregivers, elected officials and citizens of the world, we share a responsibility for action. No matter which piece of the puzzle we find ourselves a part of, it’s a job that none of us can afford to take lightly.