The emotional impact of seeing a loved one succumb to dementia is well understood. But as Alzheimer's patients are forced to transition to professional care facilities, the emotional pain is compounded by the financial pressure of the cost of care: According to the 2016 Genworth Cost of Care study, the median monthly cost for adult day health care services nationwide is $1,473.
If the senior needs a higher level of care, an assisted living facility costs $3,628 per month, on average, looking at the median nationwide cost of care.
Medicare does not cover the cost of long term care services. Normally, long term care costs must be paid by long term care insurance, private savings or family assistance.
Possible Future Treatments
That said, there is hope for effective treatment and prevention on the horizon: Scientists are zeroing in on an understanding of how Alzheimer's develops and progresses, and are beginning to develop promising treatments on a variety of fronts.
For example, scientists now believe a neurological buildup of the protein beta-amyloid plaque may be responsible for Alzheimer's disease. So researchers are developing a series of treatments aimed at disrupting the formation of beta-amyloid protein molecules and preventing them from combining into clumps within the brain. A family of drugs known as monoclonal antibodies works on getting the immune system involved to attack these beta-amyloid proteins as they form.
There is also some hope for the development of production blockers - that is, compounds that disrupt the production of beta-amyloid within the brain. Scientists are developing beta- and gamma-secretase inhibitors that may be able to prevent enzymes from manufacturing beta-amyloid from its 'parent' proteins within the brain.
Some more recent work suggests that there is a possible benefit to treatment with solanezumab, a monoclonal antibody, for those with early-stage Alzheimer's or milder cases. Thus far, the drug seems safe in clinical trials, which are ongoing.
Another drug, called Aducanubab, is showing some promise in early stage trials, and scientists are looking at this avenue as well.
Researchers are also exploring the relationship between beta-amyloid plaques and another protein known as Fyn. Scientists believe that when the two molecules interact, the Fyn protein goes haywire, and starts attacking synapse pathways within the brain.
Another drug called saracatinab has been found to neutralize the Fyn protein in mice - and is linked to reduction of memory loss in those animals tested. Researchers are now evaluating the effects of the drug on humans.
Biologists are also looking at the role of a protein called "tau." Scientists have noticed that this protein fiber tends to get twisted and tangled in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Researchers are looking at finding ways to prevent tau proteins from tangling themselves, via the use of tau aggregation inhibitors and vaccine therapies. Both therapies are now in clinical trials.
Finally, researchers are working on ways to reduce brain cell inflammation, which commonly occurs at low levels among Alzheimer's patients. The drug pioglitazone (Actos), already in use to fight diabetes, may also have a role in reducing beta-amyloid formation and brain cell inflammation.