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New dementia cost model looks to lower financial toll for patients, families

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Researchers from USC are building a dementia cost model that will generate the national and annual cost estimates of dementia.

New dementia cost model : © Viks_jin - stock.adobe.com

New dementia cost model : © Viks_jin - stock.adobe.com

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) are building a dementia cost model that will generate comprehensive national and annual estimates of the cost of dementia. With a five-year, $8.2 million federal grant from the National Institute of Aging, the new model could benefit patients and families by assisting families living with dementia by planning their budgets and support needs. It could also inform treatment and caregiving options, as well as shape health care policy.

Currently, the costs attributed with dementia drastically hurt families, draining their savings and causing caregivers to leave their jobs. In the US, the condition is an economic burden, with total health care and long-term care costs for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias projecting to reach $360 billion this year. The Alzheimer Association even projects that this total will reach nearly $1 trillion by 2050.

Project advisor Maria Aranda, a professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, said, “Other consequences may include caregivers’ lower retirement savings or limited ability to send their children to college. In turn, this leads to an intergenerational transmission of inequality and financial vulnerability for families of persons with dementia.”

The new model, known as a “dynamic microsimulation model,” will incorporate several data sets, including data from CMS. It will also account for costs across a range of disease stages, such as those acquired by the person living with dementia, their care partners and care givers, and their payers. Additionally, the model’s estimates will adjust for prevention and treatment innovations.

“Once you factor in the social costs of Alzheimer’s — how it affects family, caregivers and others — you quickly realize it is not just an illness but a social epidemic,” Dana Goldman, co-leader of the research team, said. “This project will help amplify the importance of finding treatments that forestall the devastation.”

USC Viterbi scientists will design an interface in the model, which will be available to the public and user-friendly. Researchers will be able to calculate numerous factors that affect dementia patients and their families, like the social and economic impact of drugs that treat the neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with advance dementia. This will keep patients out of hospitals and emergency rooms.

Interestingly, the tool may be able to measure cost savings provided by a new drug, Leqembi, delaying by two months the expense of 24-hour care.

Julie Zissimopoulous, a professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy and head leader of the project, said she and her research team want to know about the future implications of the drug, including its efficacy in patients overtime, particularly for 10 to 20 years.

“Leqembi is a great example,” Zissimopoulous said. “It’s a new FDA-approved treatment for early-stage Alzheimer’s; we have data from clinical trials that informs patients and the health care providers about safety and efficacy. But these data are not informative about the other outcomes patients and their families care about including quality of life impacts that may result from this slowing of cognitive decline. And we want to know about not just the 18 months of the clinical trial, but we want to know about them for 10 years, for 20 years.”

With this new infrastructure, researchers hope it’ll further understanding of dementia progression and how to delay its symptoms.

“Once you factor in the social costs of Alzheimer’s — how it affects family, caregivers and others — you quickly realize it is not just an illness but a social epidemic,” Goldman said. “This project will help amplify the importance of finding treatments that forestall the devastation.”

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