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The high cost of dementia

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Juliana Cardenas says Gustavo, her husband of nearly 50 years, used to take care of everything.

"Very sad," she said.

Since Gustavo was diagnosed with dementia five years ago, his wife has been responsible for all the expenses Medicare doesn't cover.

"For us it's a lot of money," she said.

Now, new research shows dementia is more costly than heart disease or cancer. The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds the cost of treating and caring for people with dementia ranges from $157 billion to $215 billion annually in the U.S.

"The cost of caring for patients with dementia by their family caregivers ranges in the mid $40,000s to mid $50,000 per year," said Dr. James Galvin of NYU Langone Medical Center.

The findings show medical treatment is not driving the cost; it's providing long-term care at home and in medical facilities.

Expenses can really add up. Caregivers are often unable to work if they're caring for a loved one with dementia at home. Paying for a nursing facility can also be very costly.

"The real take home message for families... begin future planning now, don't wait until you need a plan," Galvin advised.

Dementia also takes an emotional toll on the caregiver. Juliana Cardenas pays an aide $10 an hour to get some help four hours a week.

"I know $40 is nothing for some, but for us it's a lot of money," she said.

She says she's providing care for her husband because she can't afford any other options.

The findings also suggest costs for dementia could double by the year 2040 because the population is aging.

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