PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Juliana Cardenas says her husband Gustavo of nearly 50 years used to take care of everything.

“Very sad,” cries Juliana.

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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,” Juliana says.

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-40s to mid-50 thousand dollars per year,” says 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.

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“The real take home message for families — begin future planning now, don’t wait until you need a plan,” urges Dr. Galvin.

Dementia also takes an emotional toll on the caregiver. Juliana 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 points out.

“That’s really the biggest ticket item, I would think, is the actual care for someone with this disease,” says Deidre Stein of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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

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

Alzheimer’s disease will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion in the year 2050.

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