Cost of dementia care in US to double by 2040

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 05 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2175
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

The cost of dementia care in the United States is currently estimated to be as high as $215bn (£141bn; €166bn) per year and can be expected to double by 2040, according to a study in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.1

The findings suggest that the cost of dementia care in the US is far higher than the cost of care for heart disease or cancer.

The main component of the cost of dementia care was not the cost of medical services, but that of institutional and home based long term care, said Michael Hurd, the study’s lead author and a senior economist at RAND, the non-profit research organization that conducted the study.

“People with dementia do not get much more additional healthcare services than other people,” Hurd said. “The real drivers of the cost are for non-medical care.”

Depending on the value placed on the cost of unpaid care by relatives and non-relatives, which included the value of their lost wages, the study estimated that the overall cost per person for dementia care ranged from $49 689 to $56 290 a year, translating into a total annual cost ranging from $157bn to $215bn.

All told, the cost of nursing, formal, and informal home care accounted for 75% to 84% of dementia related costs, the researchers found.

The study drew on data from the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing survey that has been following a sample of nearly 11 000 individuals older than 51 since 1992. The study also included a detailed in-home clinical assessment of a subset (n=856) of the Health and Retirement Study’s participants, which evaluated their cognitive status and gathered information about out-of-pocket expenses, help received from others for assistance with daily activities, and other factors.

The study estimated that the prevalence of dementia was 14.7% among individuals older than 70 years in the US in 2010.

If the prevalence and costs per person remained the same, the researchers noted, the total cost of dementia care in the US would double by 2040 as the nation ages.

“There are no signs that the costs of dementia will decrease given that the nation will have a larger number of 85 year olds in the future than we do today,” Hurd said. “Unless there is some sort of medical breakthrough, these costs will continue to rise.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2175


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