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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  • Donna

    I’m sixty-five. I, for one, don’t want my life extended unnecessarily if the time comes when I don’t know anybody around me. I’m not saying kill me; just don’t take unnecessary drastic measures. Please.

  • Cathy

    What do you mean by medically keeping them alive? This discussion, in one form or another, has been around for awhile now. What is the drugs used to keep ALZ patients alive? If there is such a thing I never heard of it in the 12 years my mother suffered with this disease.

    Or are you talking about with holding treatments that have nothing at all to do with their ALZ, just because they also have ALZ? Is it being suggested we not treat them for acute illnesses? Or chronic diseases unrelated to ALZ for the sole purpose of hurrying death along?

    These people are among the most vulnerable in our society. If we are talking about killing them off, because I am not understanding what you mean by with holding treatment for ALZ, then there are words (very unkind ones) for such actions.

  • Reality Rounds

    Does every health care reform debate have to be about cash, or can it be about compassion? The compassion route to health care may be more cost effective. Let patients die with dignity, at home, with caregivers. Our 97 yo grandmother died at home last year, with a caregiver, in her own bed, surrounded by the people and things she loved. When we “priced” it out, having a 24 hour caregiver in her own home, was cheaper than putting her in a nursing home. Not a popular decision in the medical community.


    Sure this is a subject worth bringing up, and it does get brought up – a lot. One need only work on the public policy (and the public funds associated with it) to know this. The move now is to keep people in their homes longer, which costs less and is where they want to be in the first place.

    Unfortunately, it’s an exceptionally expensive disease to deal with. Do you have thoughts on solutions?

  • Doc99

    Soylent Green is people.

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