Are we wasting money on Alzheimer’s care?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, now is the time to address the burgeoning Alzheimer’s crisis, especially with baby boomers in the midst of Medicare age.

Alzheimer’s dementia boosts the cost of caring for the elderly almost three-fold, from about $10,000 to $33,000 per year, and as Amy Tuteur blogs, “the report of the Alzheimer’s Association assumes that the enormous cost of Alzheimer’s care is a morally necessary burden, but it’s far from clear that the assumption is justified.”

She raises some provocative questions, asking, especially in the midst of a stumbling economy, “Does anyone benefit from our perverse insistence on indefinitely extending the lives of the senile elderly? Are we fulfilling the wishes of the elderly people involved? Would they want to be kept alive, incapacitated, incontinent, and incapable of participating in the most basic tasks or social interactions? . . . Does it make any sense to spend a major proportion of the healthcare budget on people who are virtually insensate and will never recover?”

Of course, denying care to Alzheimer’s patients will never happen. But, bringing up how much we’re spending on end-of-life care is worth talking about, and should be relevant in any discussion involving the control of health care spending.

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