FRIDAY, Nov. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The number of people with Alzheimer's disease in the United States will more than double by 2050 -- a trend driven by the aging baby boomer population, a new study predicts.
The cost of caring for these Alzheimer's patients will climb from $307 billion to $1.5 trillion a year by 2050, the researchers estimated. They believe that, 35 years from now, the average annual per-patient cost of the disease will be double that of the $71,000-a-year cost in 2010.
"It is so expensive because individuals with Alzheimer's disease need extensive help with daily activities provided by paid caregivers or by family members who may be taking time off of work to care for them, which has a double impact on the economy," study lead author Julie Zissimopoulos, an assistant professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, said in a university news release.
"In late stages of the disease, they need help with personal care and lose the ability to control movement, which requires 24-hour care, most often in an institutional setting," she said.
The majority of these costs are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid, the researchers said.
It is estimated that the number of Americans aged 65 and older will increase from about 43 million in 2012 (14 percent of the population) to nearly 84 million by 2050 (21 percent of the population).
Between 2010 and 2050, there will be a 153 percent rise in the number of people 70 and older with Alzheimer's -- from 3.6 million to 9.1 million -- according to the University of Southern California researchers.
The new research also suggested that delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease could offer significant benefits.
By 2050, being able to delay Alzheimer's onset by five years would result in 41 percent fewer cases and lower the overall costs to society by 40 percent, according to the study published online recently in the journal Forum for Health Economics and Policy.
"Our colleagues in the medical field are working on ways to understand how the disease interferes with brain processes -- and then stop it," Zissimopoulos said.
"Investment in their work now could yield huge benefits down the line," she added.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.