Dementia Costs Expected To Skyrocket

Posted at: 04/04/2013 10:42 PM
Updated at: 04/04/2013 10:50 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- With thousands of baby boomers quickly approaching the peak age for the onset of dementia, experts worry about rising medical costs.

And they're already sky high.

According to a new study, Americans spent around $109 billion to treat dementia in 2010, or between $41,000 and $56,000 on each case.

That far surpasses the $102 billion spent on heart disease and the $77 billion spent on cancer treatment.

It's an amount that can add even more stress to families already struggling to cope with the loss of their loved one.

“They may be working. How do you manage that?” said Marianna Zahorik who offers caregiver support at the Mower County Senior Center. “If you have to leave your job to care for someone, it's a huge financial burden."

Soon billions more dollars will be needed for expanded care facilities, training for in-home caregivers, and other related medical expenses.

And the sheer number of dementia patients is already stretching staff thin at facilities like Thorne Crest Retirement Community where roughly half the patients have some form of dementia.

“It can be difficult for time management for the staff,” said Robyn Wilder, director of nursing at Thorne Crest. “If someone's having some difficulties and needing a little extra one-on-one [staff are] sometimes torn in getting to all the residents."

But even with all the financial burdens, experts said the emotional cost can be even greater.

“Often they have guilt, the money, the separation, just dealing with the dementia diagnosis itself can be very difficult,” Wilder said.

“They're dealing with a family member that now the role has changed, the relationship has changed,” Zahorik said. “It's just very hard to go through all of those little losses along the way."

Zahorik and others will lead a family education workshop on April 18th at the Mower County Senior Center to help families prepare for issues they may face when dealing with dementia. The workshop is from 6-8 p.m.