MADISON, Wis., May 25 (UPI) -- The way to fight Alzheimer's disease is to intervene decades before someone demonstrates symptoms, U.S. researchers suggest.
"The future of this disease is to intervene decades before someone becomes symptomatic. This analysis says you can save literally billions of dollars in long-term care costs if you can intervene at an earlier stage," study co-author David Weimer of the La Follette School of Public Affairs said in a statement. "What you don't know costs a lot of money when it comes to this disease."
The researchers analyzed two types of interventions following diagnosis -- patient drug treatment and caregiver-support programs.
The study, published in the Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, found each intervention provides positive net savings, with the greatest benefits achieved using a combination of both.
Currently, Medicare does not support caregiver-intervention programs and even accounting for implementation costs, the analysis suggests it would result in net savings to governments by reducing the care burden on medical systems.
The Wisconsin Medicaid program spends almost $500 million each year on nursing home care for 11,000 dementia patients -- a tiny fraction of the estimated 160,000 affected people in the state, but caregiver support is sparse, Mark Sager of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health said.