Without looking it up, can you name the most expensive disease in America? It’s not heart disease, lung cancer, or diabetes. The costliest disease in the U.S. is Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the cost of care for Alzheimer’s and other dementia’s will reach $277 billion this year.
So, whether you know or not, it’s likely Alzheimer’s is having a significant impact on your firm’s bottom line. And the reach of this disease extends far beyond those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Friends, family members, and caregivers are all deeply affected by this disease.
Continue reading to find out what Alzheimer’s is, how it impacts your business, and how you can use Alzheimer’s care benefits to fight its adverse effects.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms typically develop slowly but get worse over time. Eventually, the disease becomes severe enough to interfere with daily routine. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.
It’s important to know that Alzheimer’s is NOT a normal part of the aging process. Though, the majority of those with the disease are 65 and older. Still, early onset Alzheimer’s (also known as younger-onset Alzheimer’s) can appear in someone in their 40s or 50s.
What’s Alzheimer’s Impact?
As previously mentioned, this disease is having a significant impact on your company, whether you know it or not. The first way Alzheimer’s affects your organization is through the cost. The nine most common neurological diseases cost the U.S. a combined $800 billion annually, according to a study by the University of South Florida.
Similarly, the last five years of life, for someone with Alzheimer’s, cost an average of $287,000. These costs are over $100,000 more than the costs associated with the last five years of life with heart disease or cancer. Also, in 2016, the lifetime cost of care, for those with Alzheimer’s, reached an average of $329,360.
Obviously, Alzheimer’s is expensive for those who suffer from the disease. And these expenses are likely costing your business even more. A 2017 survey from Mercer found U.S. employers lose up to $250 billion a year in lost wages due to financial stress.
Financial stress can result in increased anxiety and depression. Additionally, Cambridge Credit Counseling says financial stress can also worsen such health issues as heart disease, weight fluctuation, eating disorders, diabetes, insomnia, psoriasis, cancer, and substance abuse.
What About Caregivers?
Aside from those with the disease, Alzheimer’s also has a profound impact on employees who are caregivers to someone with Alzheimer’s. The combined value of caregiving and out-of-pocket expenses can reach ridiculous proportions for those looking after a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Of total lifetime costs, families bear 70 percent through out-of-pocket expenses and the value of unpaid care.
The Alzheimer’s Association, in a 2016 study, reported the extent to which caregivers have to sacrifice to tend to a loved one suffering from this disease. Caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s are 28 percent more likely to eat less or go hungry because they can’t afford to pay for food.
In 2017, there were over 16 million family members or friends who provided a total of 18.4 million hours of unpaid care. This care is worth an estimated $232 million. And the negative impact the time and attention it takes to care for someone with Alzheimer’s results in an additional $11.4 billion in healthcare costs for these caregivers.
Similarly, on average, care contributors lose over $15,000 in annual income. As previously mentioned, dementia is the most expensive disease in the U.S., which extends to caregivers too. And, in the U.S., dementia caregivers spend twice as much on out-of-pocket costs as any other type of caregiver.
The stress of providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can have significant effects on caregiver-employees. One 2017 study found the impact on employees’ labor and productivity are major contributing factors to the costs involved with Alzheimer’s. In fact, disability-related costs are higher for neurological diseases than any other category of illness.
Read more about caregiver support benefits here.
What Can You Do To Help?
As an employer, there are multiple methods to assist both those who have Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Each of these methods ranges in cost and effectiveness but will all work to help employees who have Alzheimer’s or are caregivers for a loved one with dementia.
1. Flexible Spending Arrangement/ Health Savings Account
The first benefit to help combat the harmful effects of Alzheimer’s is a flexible spending arrangement (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA). While different, both accounts act as savings vehicles to help employees pay for qualified healthcare expenses. These accounts give those dealing with Alzheimer’s a bank of savings to reduce the impact of out-of-pocket costs.
2. Stress Reduction Programs
We’ve already covered how stressful Alzheimer’s is for both those with the illness and their caregivers. And this stress is more impactful on your business than you may believe. Job-related stress alone costs U.S. companies an estimated $300 billion a year.
Stress reduction programs help your employees fight the harmful negative effects of stress. These programs can differ in what specific benefits they offer, but they’re all geared to reduce stress amongst your workforce. Stress reduction programs can include yoga, meditation, and one-on-one meetings.
3. Quality Work
What type of work you perform at your job could protect your brain from age-related dementia. A 2016 study from the University of Wisconsin found interesting results about this potential link. According to the study, high levels of occupational complexity, or brain power used when working, were associated with protection from Alzheimer’s.
4. Financial Education Services
Another benefit that’s significant for those dealing with Alzheimer’s is financial education services. These benefits educate employees about financial topics and improve financial literacy. Topics covered under financial education can include retirement savings and planning, building emergency savings, budget management, and identity protection.
5. Flexible Work
A critical Alzheimer’s benefit is flexible work, especially for caregivers. Increasing employees’ flexible work options (including flexible hours, schedule, and hours) gives employees the ability to choose when and where they work. This flexibility allows employee-caregivers to work around their caregiving responsibilities, and hopefully, work when they’re most productive.
Paid leave of any kind is a vital Alzheimer’s benefit. But paid time off is specifically a tremendous benefit for those dealing with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Paid time off, which combines sick leave and vacation, gives employees increased flexibility for taking time off from work.
Employee-caregivers benefit the most from this perk. For example, picture a caregiver who has to leave work regularly to take a loved one with Alzheimer’s to their medical appointments. Under PTO, these workers no longer have to worry about whether they can take this time off.
7. Health Insurance
The final, and most obvious, Alzheimer’s benefit is health insurance. Again, we already know that Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in this country. Now, imagine dealing with these expenses, without health insurance. If you’re not a millionaire or related to one, the expenses of treating Alzheimer’s would quickly reach distressing heights.
Merely having health insurance is just the first step. The next step is ensuring your insurance coverage levels are acceptable. Make sure your insurance plan covers preventative dementia care. Preventative care is especially critical for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In fact, spotting Alzheimer’s disease early could save the U.S. as much as $7.9 trillion in health and long-term care costs.
Most people understand the gravity of an incurable disease like Alzheimer’s. But few people know the total costs and impact of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Use Alzheimer’s benefits to help those employees directly impacted by this devastating disease.