Alzheimer needs grow faster than those to give care

As lawmakers talk about improving access to health care in all corners of Ohio — and staffing shortages continue to plague health care and long-term care facilities — the Alzheimer’s Association released its 2023 data for the Buckeye State. The trends are disturbing.

There are now 220,000 Ohioans living with Alzheimer’s. By 2025 that number is expected to reach 250,000 — a 13.6 percent increase in prevalence. Care for those patients differs. There are 493,000 UNPAID caregivers in the state. Those are family members taking on a labor of love, but often wearing themselves down in the process. The Alzheimer’s Association reports more than 60 percent of those caregivers have chronic health problems themselves. On the other hand, 17 percent of residents in hospice care have some form of dementia. Medicaid costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s are $2.534 billion, and expected to increase by 16 percent by 2025. Medicare spending on those with dementia is approximately $29,440 per person.

It is a massive, expensive and exhausting problem, and it will only grow.

But in Ohio there were only 163 geriatricians in 2021. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the increase needed to meet the demand by 2050 is 229.4 percent. In 2020 the state had 95,560 home health and personal care aides, and will need a 24 percent increase to meet demands by 2030.

“The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated to total $345 billion in 2023, increasing to $1 trillion (in today’s dollars) by mid-century,” the association said.

It is yet another in a long list of problems for which Ohio does not have enough resources now, let alone the means to tackle it as it grows. We don’t have enough affordable, accessible child care; the state does not have enough nurses and home health professionals. Families find themselves making difficult choices at the youngest and oldest stages of life, with those in the middle sacrificing and wearing themselves thin.

Policymakers, educators, health care professionals and families must prepare for this increasing weight on all of us — even as we hope researchers are nearing more effective treatments and perhaps even a cure for these diseases. Though they are hard at work, we must be realistic about what the future might bring.



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