Report Reveals Costs of Alzheimer's Disease
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The Alzheimer's Association recently released new information about the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and the costs associated with it.
The report predicts total Medicaid costs for Americans with dementia to be almost $1 billion in 2019. An estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease; roughly 150,000 of those are Virginians.
There are about 465,000 caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease in the commonwealth, according to the report. In 2018, those care givers provided 520-million hours of unpaid care. That's valued at almost $7 billion.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s report also shows a significant disconnect between seniors and physicians when it comes to cognitive assessments.
Cognitive assessments are required as part of Medicare’s annual wellness visit, but the study shows only half of all seniors are actually receiving this exam. The assessments can be as simple as a physician asking a patient or caregiver directly about any memory concerns, or as in-depth as administering a written test in a doctor’s office. The exams are required by Medicare.
However, more than half of family care doctors say they either don't have time to complete them, or patients aren't reporting enough symptoms for them to feel it’s necessary.
Albemarle Square Family Healthcare physician Doctor Andy Macfarlan says mild cognitive impairment - also known as pre-dementia and pre-Alzheimer’s - can be detected much more easily now during annual wellness visits.
In fact, Medicare has expanded its requirements over the last year to allow other medical personnel other than just doctors to complete these tests.
"It doesn't take a super specialist to do this. In fact, any provider can do it, and the annual wellness visits are mostly taken care of in our office by nurses who are trained to evaluate people for the comprehensive issues in the annual wellness visits," Macfarlan said.
Macfarlan says creating a relationship with a family care physician can also help detect cognitive impairment in its early stage. He adds that doctors should not wait until patients are 65 or older to start evaluating their memory.
The Alzheimer’s Association report states 91 percent of physicians welcome steps for implementing these assessments more efficiently into their practices.