In a non-hospital environment, patients often need a paid caregiver, depending on the level of dementia. If a patient had behavioral issues or sleep issues, Pao said, it could make caring for them more demanding.
“A paid caregiver is expensive, since this is currently an illness that will only progress,” Pao said.
An unpaid caregiver, she said, is usually a family member who may undergo lost wages or decreased income because of disruption or time off from work.
In addition, Pao said, the toll also can have costs that aren’t always measured with dollar signs.
“Increased emotional stress, depression, their own health impairment because of taking care of a chronically ill family member — these are all costs beyond the actual medical bill of a patient with dementia,” Pao said.
The way the medical community treats dementia has changed over the years as well.
Laura Meyer, a nurse practitioner in neurology at the Mankato Clinic, said the changes have been driven by the growing number of people affected. There are more specialty care units and day programs available to people suffering from dementia than a decade ago.
“Years ago we did not have these community resources available, and they are tremendously valuable to those families who need them,” Meyer said. “We also have medications available to slow the progression of the disease, and this has changed the way we are looking at and treating it.”