By: Hannah Heitz
Calculating the cost of caregiving for dementia is highly complex. Caregiving is often provided through informal means, which means it can be difficult to quantify the associated costs. In the study noted above, the cost of informal caregiving was quantified in two ways: the equivalent cost of formal caregiving or the cost of foregone wages of the caregiver. Regardless of how the cost is measured, it represents a large burden on society that will only grow as the baby-boomer generation ages. Current estimates anticipate that annual costs will double by 2040. There has been little work to address these issues and health policymakers are far behind in catching up to the growing social and monetary costs of dementia.
Preventive interventions could potentially delay, or even prevent, cognitive decline associated with full-time caregiving, which is one of the most expensive aspects of mental health issues in aging populations. In addition to saved cost, preventive interventions could help maintain independence and levels of self-efficacy, which research has found is important in positive mental health maintenance. In order to evaluate potential interventions, public health researchers need adequate funding to implement small-scale projects, such as community programming or behavioral interventions, to evaluate solutions that might be effective when enacted at a larger scale. Broadening the policy focus from purely treatment and maintenance to include prevention could potentially save millions for both Medicare and individuals, while also enhancing quality of life for the aging population.
1: Hurd MD, Martorell P, Delavande A, Mullen KJ, Langa KM. Monetary costs of dementia in the United States.N Engl J Med. 2013 Apr 4;368(14):1326-34
4: D. G. Blazer (2002) Self-efficacy and depression in late life: A primary prevention proposal, Aging & Mental Health, 6:4, 315-324