Recently an NIA-funded study on the economic costs of caring for people with dementia was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study drew a lot of attention, and I want to tell you a little more about it. I am the program officer for this grant.
The importance of this study.
As the lead federal agency for Alzheimer’s research, the NIA takes a broad interest in characterizing the societal effects of this disease. The emotional and physical demands of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia impose a great burden on patients and families. The disease also imposes substantial economic costs on society. A reliable estimate of those costs is important information for policy-makers and the research community, as they plan for research, care, and services. Until this study, however, available estimates relied primarily on small, local samples, or were not peer-reviewed. This study is the first peer reviewed, national estimate of the economic costs of dementia care.
The new result.
Using data from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, NIA grantee Michael Hurd and colleagues found that the cost of caring for people over age 70 with dementia in the U.S. in 2010 ranged from $159 billion to $215 billion. Those figures include both direct medical expenditures—which amounted to $109 billion—as well as costs attributable to informal, unpaid care by family members and others for people with dementia. The authors note that their estimates of dementia costs are comparable to or greater than estimates from other sources of the costs associated with heart disease and cancer.
The range reflects alternative ways of valuing informal care. The lower figure ($159 billion) values informal caregiving at the foregone wage of the caregiver, while the higher figure ($215 billion) values it at the market price for purchasing a comparable service.
The full text of the article is available free from the journal.
Research opportunities - please apply.
We fund research projects on the impact of dementia on society, including economic costs such as medical care services and indirect costs from caregiving by family members or reduced productivity. We have an open funding opportunity on this topic, and we encourage you to apply. See NIA Program Announcement Estimating the Economic Costs of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.
This dataset and more.
This study used the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), conducted by the University of Michigan, which surveys a representative sample of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every 2 years. Supported by the NIA and the Social Security Administration, the HRS collects data on work and health among older Americans as they transition to their retirement years. This dataset is available to researchers without cost, so please get in touch with the HRS if you want access.
The HRS is one of several datasets that the NIA funds. They are designed to help answer important questions about aging at the individual and societal level. I urge you to take a look at these datasets, which are available to researchers for secondary analyses like this dementia care costs study.
If you have questions, please comment below or contact me directly.