Sep 12, 2015

Women Bear a Heavy Economic Burden for Alzheimer's Care

The cost burden for women with Alzheimer’s is six times as high as it is for men.

Women Bear Economic Burden for Alzheimer's Caregiving | Alzheimer's Reading Room
The greatest gender difference was in the cost of uncompensated informal care that women deliver to a family member living with the disease.

"This is the first study of its kind to document the disparate economic impact of Alzheimer's on Women as patients and caregivers and the concomitant burden on our public health systems. It illustrates the urgent need to reform reimbursement policies for Medicare, Medicaid and long-term care and alleviate the public and private impact of this tragic disease that burdens families for decades." - said Jill Lesser, President, WomenAgainstAlzheimer's.

The study was conducted at Emory University and published in the journal Women's Health Issues.

Gender is one of the best-established differences in risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other forms of dementia, with women being at greater risk.

This study took a life-time perspective to investigate the burden of Alzheimer's over the course of the disease. Nationally representative Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey data were used to estimate the course of illness of AD from age 65 to death, and the incremental costs of AD on Medicare and Medicaid. Published data on the use and costs of assisted living facilities, home health care, and informal care were imputed into the course of illness to calculate the lifetime costs of these services.

Females and males have distinctively different patterns of course of illness of AD.
  • Women face higher risks of having AD (15.5% vs. 13.1%)
  • and of serving as informal caregivers for AD patients (6.8% vs. 4.0%) before death.
Medicare and Medicaid account for major payers of AD care for both genders, but the greatest economic challenge of AD to women is the cost of the informal care they deliver, resulting in women bearing six times the cost of men.

The higher Alzheimer’s costs were based on three factors:
  1. the probability of developing Alzheimer’s, 
  2. disease duration,
  3. and formal or informal care for patients.
Women’s costs to treat Alzheimer’s are:
  1. 1.5 times that of men, 
  2. 2.2 that for Medicaid costs 
  3. and 5.8 times that for assisted living and home health care.
The greater cost burden for females is a result of the informal care that women deliver to family member’s with Alzheimer’s, and the absence of Medicaid coverage for such caregiving.
"There is strong evidence that women face higher risks of being affected by Alzheimer's as either patients or informal caregivers. It is critical to develop public policy to benefit the health and economic welfare of women everywhere." ~ Zhou Yang
Additional findings include:
  1. women Alzheimer's patients have 16% higher Medicare costs 
  2. and 70% higher Medicaid costs than male patients over their lifetime. 
  3. And, the greatest gender difference was in the cost of uncompensated informal care 
Yang and Levey initiated the study in coordination with Women Against Alzheimer's, an advocacy group committed to stopping Alzheimer's by 2020.

Authors Zhou Yang, PhD, assistant professor in Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, and Allan Levey, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology and director of the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center conducted this study.

Source - Gender Differences: A Lifetime Analysis of the Economic Burden of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and is ultimately fatal. It is also one of the most expensive diseases in our country—more costly than heart disease or cancer.

The Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) is the only National Institutes of Health designated ADRC in the Southeast, signifying the highest status an institution can receive in Alzheimer's research and care.

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