The financial burden of dementia grows

A nurse holds the hands of a person suffering from Alzheimer's disease.


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The global cost of caring for people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is likely to reach $600 billion this year. And the World Alzheimer's Report criticizes countries like the U.S. for not spending enough on research into the disease. Marketplace's Stephen Beard is with us live from London with the latest. Hi Stephen.


CHIOTAKIS: We've heard a whole lot about the human costs of dementia, now we're getting a sense of the economic costs. What are the projections for the future?

BEARD: Well, the report reckons that the number of people with dementia will triple by the middle of the century to a total of 115 million. This is going to have a major impact on total cost of care, especially in the U.S., which spends most on care for dementia patients at the moment -- a total of $172 billion a year for the U.S. as a whole.

CHIOTAKIS: Now you're talking about care, but why is the U.S. being criticized for its spending on research?

BEARD: Well, the report points out that the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. spend between $400-500 million a year on Alzheimer's research. Compare that with $5-6 billion on cancer. And as Anders Wimo, who was involved in the report says, they hope to persuade governments to address this imbalance by drawing attention to the financial burden of dementia care.

ANDERS WIMO: When we have put figures on the cost, I think that will improve the possibilities for nations and governments to refocus on dementia as a kind of national problem in the future.

He points out that unlike some other countries, the U.S. does not have a national plan for dealing with dementia.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London. Stephen, thanks.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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My dad had Alzheimer's Disease for ten years. We kept him at his home until he died. There came a time in the destruction of his brain that all of the anger and anxiety was relieved. He became sweet and docile after that--always saying "thank you" to us for whatever we did for him. It was a very stressful time for all involved. My mom had a stroke and became aphasic just before my dad died. But,there were moments of awe, lessons learned and lots of love expressed. For myself, I think palliative and comfort care only is the way to go. Stop the drugs. They only prolong the agony and expense. Give lots of love, quality care for daily needs and let nature take its course. More public education about hospice and palliative care is needed.

Does this count the cost for caretakers, when after my patient has a combative episode, (and there are many) breaking things (like eye glasses) and hurting other people, then needing a trip to the ER to make sure he is not developing a clot in his legs where someone has kicked him? Or to have an MRI to make sure a blow to his head isn't causing intracranial bleeding, or needing stitches where someone has hit him and which take 6 weeks of attention to heal? loss of belongings? Not to mention the deadening hours of just sitting with an uncommunicative and almost always angry patient, and has been so for so many years, for hours, and sometimes with resentment, for what is no longer a full and active life I wish for myself.


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