ROCKVILLE, Md., Oct. 27 (UPI) -- The cost of the last five years of life is more than 50 percent higher for people with dementia than those who die of other diseases such as cancer and heart disease, a recent survey of patient records revealed.
Researchers at the National Institute on Aging calculated costs for dementia patients at the end of life, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs, as well as private insurance and out-of-pocket costs. They estimate the cost to be more than $250,000 -- more than $100,000 more than other other Medicare beneficiaries combined costs.
"This complex analysis lays out the significant health care costs to society and individuals in the last five years of life," said Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the NIA, in a press release. "It provides an important picture of the risks that families face, particularly those with dementia and those who may be least able to bear major financial risk. Such insights are critically important as we examine how best to support the aging of the U.S. population."
Using data from the Health and Research Study, researchers gathered data on 1,702 Medicare beneficiaries age 70 and older who died between 2005 and 2010. They were broken down into four groups based on their cause of death: Dementia, heart disease, cancer or other causes.
The average cost for the last five years of life with dementia was $287,038, significantly more than the $175,136 for heart disease, $173,383 for cancer or $197,286 for other causes of death. Medicare expenditures were similar across all diseases, however average out-of-pocket spending for dementia patients was $61,522, or 81 percent higher than the $34,068 for other patients.
On average, out-of-pocket spending for dementia patients was 32 percent of wealth measured over five years, compared with 11 percent for the other groups. That proportion was found to be greater for certain demographic groups -- it represented 84 percent of five years' wealth for black patients, 48 percent for people without a high school education, and 58 percent for unmarried or widowed women.
"The magnitude of the difference was shocking to me, even though the trend is what I expected," Dr. Amy Kelley, an associate professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, told HealthDay. "I don't think the vast majority of people have any idea about these costs unless they're living it."
The study is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.