Few families ready to deal with cost, rising numbers of Alzheimer’s

Angie Moore hasn’t been to a movie in God knows how long.

Her stress level is through the roof. Every spare dollar goes to make sure Moore can afford a paid caregiver to come in every once in a while to relieve her and to make sure her 91-year-old mother gets an extra nutritional supplement and incidentals.

“I love her, but it’s been pretty hard on me,” said Moore, an only child, whose father died nearly nine years ago from pancreatic cancer. That leaves her as the sole family caregiver for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

Moore’s story is heard all too often in U.S. households as more adults grapple with taking care of a parent or spouse or other relative with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.

In Georgia, 130,000 people, ages 65 and older, have Alzheimer’s disease, according to new figures released Wednesday by the Alzheimer’s Association in its annual report, “2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” The report looks at prevalence and costs associated with the disease.

Nationally, an estimated 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s. By 2025, the number of people ages 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is estimated to reach 7.1 million, according to the report.

The disease damages parts of the brain and causes problems with memory, thinking behavior and performing everyday tasks like speaking and walking. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time. Patients can live for years with this progressive disease.

It affects more women than men. African-Americans are more likely to develop the disease than whites.

The financial, physical and emotional toll it takes on caregivers is staggering. Some must quit work to care for a relative. Others run through their retirement and savings accounts. Still, a surprising number of people who may have retired must go back to work to earn money. They forgo their own medical care to take care of others.

Nationwide, the cost — including Medicare, Medicaid and out-of-pocket expenses — to care for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated to reach $236 billion in 2016, increasing to $1.1 trillion by midcentury, according to the report.

“Eating healthy is not even on the radar for me,” said Moore, who is an outpatient therapist at a clinic and probably spends nearly $400 a month on things not covered by insurance. “I basically work to keep her in (incontinence) pads and food for lunch and dinner.”

“We’ve learned that there is an enormous personal and financial sacrifice” that can jeopardize a caregiving family’s own security as the disease progresses, said Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Forty-eight percent of caregivers surveyed reported that they cut back on their own basic necessities like food, transportation and medical care. Twenty-eight percent eat less or go hungry.

“When people are struggling to put food on the table from time to time” to care for a relative, “that was particularly significant,” she said.

Related:

Roswell senior living facilities expand Alzheimer’s programs

Will the music stop? Family deals with Alzheimer’s as state hopes to help

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