Guest Columns

Addition by subtraction: Do the math of Alzheimer's

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Stuart Greenbaum
Stuart Greenbaum

Addition by subtraction is a curious phenomenon. It occurs in politics — for a timely example — when a reduced field of candidates helps voters and media focus more attention on those who remain.

It happens in other professions and walks of life too: in pro sports when a disruptive or underperforming player is traded (i.e. the Cleveland Browns will likely improve without Johnny Manziel and his troubles); in relationships when an abusive partner is shown the door; in music when a song's acoustic performance sounds better than an over-produced studio version; and in medicine when a cancerous body part is removed to prevent malignancy.

Alzheimer's disease presents another, especially dramatic example of addition by subtraction.

And, as a February Time magazine article “Alzheimer's From a New Angle'” explained, “The stakes couldn't be higher ... In the U.S., one-third of Americans over 85 are already affected by Alzheimer's. Globally, nearly 50 million people are living with dementia.” The article noted how caring for these individuals falls to families and aging-services providers and how “The cost of that care is sky-rocketing.”

Beyond the profound individual good that will come from finding a treatment, prevention or cure for this horrific disease, there are cascading economic and social benefits as well.

Plus #1: The U.S. economy will benefit by subtracting the enormous financial burden, including the unsustainable impact on Medicare.

Plus #2: Family members will benefit by subtracting the physical and emotional stress, and economic hardships related to caregiving. (Employers will benefit, too, by reducing employee absences.)

Plus #3: The financial stability and lifestyles of families will improve by subtracting the expense of long-term care, which could cost $5,000 to $10,000 per month in a memory care facility. (As an aside, progressive aging-services providers will benefit by initiating scenario planning to survive this inevitable financial hit.)

Plus #4: Healthier longevity will result by subtracting this counter-intuitive, highest ranked fear of growing old.

Do the math

Considering the multiplicity of immediate and long-term benefits, hopefully one or more of the remaining presidential candidates will realize that adding Alzheimer's research to their platform would be a win-win strategy.

Stuart Greenbaum is lead author of the blog Humble Sky and president of Greenbaum Public Relations. He also serves as a governor's appointee to the California Commission on Aging.

Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.