Senate Aging Committee Examines International Approaches To Alzheimer's And Dementia Care

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wi.), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and Senator Bob Corker (R-Tn.), the committee’s ranking member, released an official committee report on Wednesday that offers a comparison of international approaches to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care. The report examined five countries—Australia, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States—and their approaches to diagnosis, treatment and long-term care options for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their family members.

  The other countries were chosen because they have similar economies to the U.S. and highlight different aspects of the Alzheimer’s challenge for policy makers.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a growing national concern and we must commit to addressing it in the most comprehensive way possible.  There are enormous costs, both personal and financial to this disease,” said Chairman Kohl.  “We urgently need to prepare for the increasing number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses, and how to curb this mounting epidemic.”

“My father had Alzheimer's, so I understand the emotional and financial difficulties facing families dealing with this devastating illness.  I hope this report will help inform the debate in our country over how to provide the best care possible given the significant budgetary and health care challenges presented by increasing cases of Alzheimer’s,” said Senator Corker.

This report highlights the global efforts to coordinate research and early detection interventions. It also underscores an increasing trend to keep Alzheimer’s patients in their homes for as long as possible, while developing more specialized environments for those who need intensive around-the-clock care.

The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) estimates that in the next 40 years, the cost of Alzheimer’s disease to all payers, including governments, insurance companies and individuals, will total $20 trillion. AA also estimates that 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, valued at $210 billion. In 2012 alone, Alzheimer’s patients and families spent an estimated $33 billion in out-of-pocket costs.  Furthermore, in the last year, Alzheimer’s disease cost $104.5 billion to Medicare and $33.5 billion to Medicaid. These expenses are expected to rise 500 percent over the next four decades.

Since its inception, the Senate Special Committee on Aging has focused on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as critical public health problems.  The committee has held a series of hearings on the disease and has heard testimony from prominent voices, such as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, on the importance of continued research, vigilance and appropriate care.  

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