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Costs for Alzheimer's Patients Continue to Rise

File / Rich Pedroncelli / AP

File / Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Health care costs for treating Californians with Alzheimer's disease continue to grow significantly.

It will cost Medi-Cal an estimated $3.5 billion to care for people with Alzheimer's disease this year, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

And it's expected to rise 47 percent over the next eight years.

Michelle Johnston is with the Northern California and Northern Nevada chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She says enrolling in Medi-Cal is often Alzheimer's patients' last resort. And without the program, some end up living in unsafe conditions.

"And this is a disease that at some point makes it impossible for you to be able to do many things for yourself," Johnston says, "and if there's nobody else looking out for that person or helping get them connected to resources in the community ... those folks may be at home and be unsafe."

The report shows the average out-of-pocket costs for seniors with
Alzheimer’s and other dementias are almost five times higher than for people without the disease.

Mary Quinn says she pays $2,000 a month for someone to assist with her husband who has Alzheimer's.

"To be able to have somebody else that is experienced with working with Alzheimer's people to be able to come to your house and help you out is great," Quinn says. "But not everybody can afford that."

The report also says the illness can be hard on caregivers, with many of them developing depression and anxiety.

But Quinn says she's determined to make life as good as possible for her husband.

"I'm not going to give up on him just because he has Alzheimer's and his personality has changed and he's no longer the person he was before," she says.

Thirty-five percent of Alzheimer's caregivers report their health has gotten worse due to care responsibilities. That's double the rate among caregivers for older people without dementia.

Ja'Nel Johnson

Former Health Care Reporter

Ja'Nel Johnson developed a love for journalism and health and science in high school, and decided the combination would make for an interesting and fun career.  Read Full Bio 

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