Care Coordination, Greater Support Imperative for Bending the Alzheimer’s Cost Curve

Charles Fuschilloby Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr.

The cost of providing care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses is staggering, unsustainable—and exploding. By 2040, the cost of caring for a person with dementia is projected to hit $1 trillion annually, up from $215 billion in 2010.

While initial steps toward actualizing the goals of the government’s “National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease” are promising toward relieving the burden of this brain disorder, much more needs to—and can—be done to deliver tangible benefits to the more than 5 million Americans currently living with the disease and to their families.

A recent report prepared by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America examined specific care-focused goals in the national plan, including coordinated care delivery models, transitional care programs and expanded caregiver supports, and modeled the economic impact of their implementation as demonstration projects specifically for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The report found that adoption of such programs — with a price tag of a mere $10 million — will provide a cost savings of more than $110 billion during a 10-year period, while promoting better health outcomes for diagnosed individuals and improving quality of life for their caregivers.

Moreover, these programs offer real hope to diagnosed individuals and their families. For example, coordinated models, such as medical homes in which professional caregivers, families and diagnosed individuals all participate in care planning and delivery, provide comprehensive and personalized care. This holistic approach affords better opportunity to manage co-occurring medical conditions, help prevent unnecessary hospitalizations, and yield better health outcomes. As well, increased training and support for family caregivers will equip them with vital tools to handle the behavioral changes that often emerge during progression of the disease. Such services can help delay costly nursing home placement.

It is only through broad adoption of these recommendations that we can hope to bend the steep cost curve associated with Alzheimer’s care. While we continue to work toward a cure, care is the best tool we have for helping individuals with dementia and their families navigate this devastating disease. It is critical that policymakers now deliver.

Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. is chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, a national non-profit that unites more than 1,700 member organizations nationwide in the mission of providing optimal care and services to people with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses and their families.

Disclaimer: The views in guest essays are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the LEAD Coalition.