The high cost of Alzheimer’s care at home


By Micha Shalev

More than 35 million people worldwide will eventually forget the names of their children, spouses and friends. And those forgotten will witness with sadness and frustration as Alzheimer’s disease slowly steals away the loved one they once knew.

Who Provides Alzheimer’s Care?

shalev_hsA dilemma comes into play very quickly. Can we afford to pay for outside services and if not, can we risk the health of mom or dad as the primary caregiver in a stressful and difficult situation? Choosing to care for a loved one, while eliminating the cost of an outside care provider, has other hidden costs.

It’s often helpful for caregivers to know they’re not alone. Given the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, many caregivers find themselves in situations similar to others, trying to balance work and family life while also caring for an aging parent or other relative.

•A typical Alzheimer’s family caregiver is a woman between 50 and 64 years of age, who works full or part time.

•Most Alzheimer’s caregivers (94 percent) are helping relatives. The most common caregiving relationship is between a parent or parent-in-law and child (62 percent).

•An estimated 10.9 million family members and friends provided unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia in 2009, each providing an average of 21.9 hours of care per week.

•According to the 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, somewhere between 981,000 to 1.6 million caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are long-distance caregivers, living more than an hour away.

A new study puts the cost of treating Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia at $109 billion, making it more expensive to society than cancer and heart disease.

The study, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, also estimates that costs will more than double in the next 27 years, reaching $259 billion by 2040. The same study puts the estimated cost of treating heart disease at $102 billion, and cancer treatment at $77 billion.

The cost of formal care comes to a yearly average of $33,329 for each patient with dementia. Both those average costs, and the number of patients suffering from dementia, are forecast to rise in coming years.

The media often writes about the high cost of long-term care but often overlooks the even higher cost of home care provided by family caregivers. Let’s look at some of the areas that account for the costs to family caregivers:

•Absenteeism from gainful employment largely due to workday interruptions, crisis in care and supervision of care.

•Loss of all sick days and vacation days, and having to request unpaid leave.

•Lost wages due to unpaid leave.

•Lost wages due to having to reduce hours from full-time to part-time, or having to go on unemployment when around the clock care is required for an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

Here’s a bill you probably wouldn’t anticipate: taking care of a family member with Alzheimer’s disease could make your own health-care bills increase by an average $4,766 a year. Family caregivers make visits to emergency rooms, doctors and hospitals at higher rates than other people the same age. And those costs add up, according to research released recently by the National Alliance for Caregiving. The study looked specifically at formal health services used by a large swath of caregivers over 18 months.

Micha Shalev, MHA, CDP, CDCM, is the owner of Dodge Park Rest Home and The Adult Day Club at Dodge Park located at 101 Randolph Road in Worcester. He is a graduate of the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners program, and well known speaker covering Alzheimer’s and Dementia training topics. The programs at Dodge Park Rest Home specialize in providing care for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at 508-853-8180 or by e-mail at View more information online at Archives of articles from previous issues can be found at