Global Bill for Alzheimer's Nears Quarter-Trillion Dollars

Costs could overwhelm nations' health-care systems, experts say

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SUNDAY, July 16, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The estimated total worldwide cost of caring for people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia now tops $248 billion U.S annually, researchers said Sunday.

That estimate, based on a worldwide prevalence estimate of nearly 28 million people with Alzheimer's and dementia, includes a newly determined figure of $92 billion for informal care costs. That amount was combined with an earlier estimate of $156 billion earmarked for direct care costs.

Swedish researchers reported the findings at the annual International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, in Madrid, Spain. The meeting was sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association.

Informal care refers to patient care provided at no cost, usually by family members and friends. Direct (or formal) care refers to paid professional health care services, such as treatment, ongoing daily care, and housing.

"Dementia care is a mix of professional care and family care giving, and this mix is not uniform throughout the world," researcher Dr. Anders Wimo, of the Stockholm Gerontology Research Center and Aging Research Center at Karolinska Institute, said in a prepared statement.

"Nevertheless, it is obvious that worldwide costs are substantial, and the expected increase of elderly people, especially the anticipated rapid increase in developing countries, presents a great challenge for social and health care systems," he added.

"These startling cost estimates for Alzheimer's care clearly illustrate the great challenges faced by both families and our national health care systems as the number of people with Alzheimer's continues to grow," William Thies, Alzheimer's Association vice president of medical and scientific relations, said in a prepared statement.

"Increased funding for Alzheimer's research into early detection, better treatment and prevention is critical to curbing this impending world health disaster," he said. "We can fund research now or wait for Alzheimer's to overwhelm the health systems in the U.S. and throughout the world."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCE: Alzheimer's Association, news release, July 16, 2006

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