Rising Cost of Caring for Alzheimer's

With no cure for Alzheimer's, families must often provide years of tough care.

ByABC News
March 24, 2009, 4:56 PM

March 24, 2009— -- Hundreds of families gathered at a rally in Washington, D.C., Monday night, in honor of their common mission: to care for loved ones who are slipping ever deeper into the fog of Alzheimer's.

"With Alzheimer's, you go through a progression, a downhill turn, and you don't have the support," Diane Shelton, whose husband has Alzheimer's, said at the rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

With no cure for the disease, families are left to provide years of care as each joins in its own long goodbye.

"Every single change that happens precipitates a whole new round of grieving," said Barbara Barham of Anderson, N.C., whose mother suffers from Alzheimer's. "The first time0 the person doesn't remember your name. The first time they don't remember you're their daughter."

When it came time for Xuan Quach, 36, to address the crowd, people at the rally understood her pain all too well. Her fears and everyday worries had a captive audience.

"I never thought that one day I would have to speak on my mother's behalf because Alzheimer's has taken away so much of her memory," she said.

The Alzheimer's Association estimates that as many as 5.3 million Americans now suffer from this memory-robbing disease, and the number is growing steadily. According to their estimates, it costs the country around $148 billion a year to provide care.

In her hometown of Alameda, Calif., Xuan has had to change jobs and move in with her 62-year-old mother, who was diagnosed six years ago.

"I definitely rely on my siblings to help me, and likewise. We all have roles to play in the caretaking of mom," she says.