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Open Access Research article

Who pays and who benefits? How different models of shared responsibilities between formal and informal carers influence projections of costs of dementia management

Victor Vickland1*, Joel Werner1, Thomas Morris1, Geoff McDonnell12, Brian Draper13, Lee-Fay Low1 and Henry Brodaty13

Author Affiliations

1 Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2 Centre for Health Informatics, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

3 Academic Department for Old Age Psychiatry, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:793  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-793

Published: 12 October 2011

Abstract

Background

The few studies that have attempted to estimate the future cost of caring for people with dementia in Australia are typically based on total prevalence and the cost per patient over the average duration of illness. However, costs associated with dementia care also vary according to the length of the disease, severity of symptoms and type of care provided. This study aimed to determine more accurately the future costs of dementia management by taking these factors into consideration.

Methods

The current study estimated the prevalence of dementia in Australia (2010-2040). Data from a variety of sources was recalculated to distribute this prevalence according to the location (home/institution), care requirements (informal/formal), and dementia severity. The cost of care was attributed to redistributed prevalences and used in prediction of future costs of dementia.

Results

Our computer modeling indicates that the ratio between the prevalence of people with mild/moderate/severe dementia will change over the three decades from 2010 to 2040 from 50/30/20 to 44/32/24.

Taking into account the severity of symptoms, location of care and cost of care per hour, the current study estimates that the informal cost of care in 2010 is AU$3.2 billion and formal care at AU$5.0 billion per annum. By 2040 informal care is estimated to cost AU$11.6 billion and formal care $AU16.7 billion per annum. Interventions to slow disease progression will result in relative savings of 5% (AU$1.5 billion) per annum and interventions to delay disease onset will result in relative savings of 14% (AU$4 billion) of the cost per annum.

With no intervention, the projected combined annual cost of formal and informal care for a person with dementia in 2040 will be around AU$38,000 (in 2010 dollars). An intervention to delay progression by 2 years will see this reduced to AU$35,000.

Conclusions

These findings highlight the need to account for more than total prevalence when estimating the costs of dementia care. While the absolute values of cost of care estimates are subject to the validity and reliability of currently available data, dynamic systems modeling allows for future trends to be estimated.