By 2050 more than 28 million baby boomers will have Alzheimer's disease (AD), and they will account for nearly 25% of Medicare finds a new analysis.
"The study is important because it is based on an updated model that charts the trajectory and economic impact of Alzheimer's, based on the rate of new diagnoses, the number of people who will be living with the disease, and the cost of medical and long-term care between now and 2050," said Dr. Christine Bredfeldt, from the Lewin Group, Falls Church, Virginia.
Baby boomer is a term used in the US as a cultural context. It refers to people born during the demographic post-World War II baby boom between the years 1946 and 1964.
The prevalence of AD in the baby boom generation will rise from 1.2% in 2020, when most baby boomers will be in their 60s and 70s, to 50.1% in 2050, when baby boomers will be in their mid-80s and older.
By 2040, more than twice as many baby boomers will have AD (10.3 million) than the equivalent age group has in 2015 (4.7 million).
"The risk of Alzheimer's increases with age, and as baby boomers get older ― because of the size of the generation ― the number of people developing the disease will rise to levels far beyond anything we've seen. The size of this generation is the major factor here," said Dr Bredfeldt.
The researchers project that in 2020, the cost of caring for baby boomers with AD in the community will be 2.1% of total Medicare spending ($11.86 billion in 2014 dollars) and will increase to 24.2% of total Medicare spending by 2040 ($328.15 billion in 2014 dollars).
Maria Carrillo, PhD, chief science officer for the Alzheimer's Association, said, "We have been talking about baby boomers for a while now, and we know that there are 80 million of them, and the finding that 28 million of them will be affected by Alzheimer's by mid-century is huge."
"The other number that has us concerned and what speaks to the urgency of the message is that today, baby boomers represent 2% of Medicare costs, and that's just Medicare, and by the time we hit 2040, baby boomers will present almost 25% of Medicare costs. That doesn't include home care, overnight care, nursing home care, all these out-of-pocket expenses," said Dr Carrillo.
Dr Bredfeldt said this new analysis "clearly shows that the increased demand Alzheimer's will place on the health and social services systems over the next 2 decades, coupled with the burden on those with the disease and their families, requires additional investment by the federal government."
The new emphasizes the need for implementation of the US National Plan to address Alzheimer's disease, which calls on the government and the private sector to intensify efforts to treat or prevent AD and related dementias and to improve care and services, she added.