Financial Impact of Dementia Care Hits Black Americans Hard

A close-up of an African American person's hands around a cane illustrates research taking place at The Graduate Center, CUNY.Black Americans with dementia are more likely to deplete their savings and wealth during the last years of their lives than white Americans with dementia, according to a study published in the journal Ageing & Society.
 
The study originated as a master’s thesis by its lead author, Jennifer Kaufman, an alumna of CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy. Her co-authors were Professors William Gallo (GC/SPH; Nursing/Health Policy and Management) and Marianne Fahs (GC/SPH; Economics/Health Policy and Management). Kaufman served as primary investigator; Gallo, an expert in the Health and Retirement Survey, a nationally representative longitudinal data set developed by the National Institute of Aging, provided “methodological guidance,” and Fahs contributed editorial guidance as the paper was prepared for publication, Fahs said.
 
“While it is not the first study to reveal income inequality in the effects of dementia between blacks and whites, it validates prior research using a highly respected national data set and a longer time period,” Fahs said in an email. She described the research as a “quantification” of “the toll of the racial divide in the U.S.”
 
Kaufman studies the economics of aging and was struck by the disparity in wealth at the end of life. “What we found is that even when families have built up something to pass on to their children, dementia can easily wipe it out,” Kaufman said. The study showed that the median wealth of black Americans with dementia declined 97 percent (from $38,205 to $1,200), compared with 42 percent (from $141,500 to $82,000) among non-black Americans with dementia.
 
Black Americans are also twice as likely to develop dementia as non-black Americans, and they spend a greater proportion of their wealth on dementia-related care than do non-black Americans with dementia.
 
This study found that dementia is also a predictor of home loss, which appears to play a significant role in a family’s decline in wealth, especially among black Americans. Kaufman said that adding a long-term care benefit to Medicare is probably the best way to address the problem.

Submitted on: DEC 10, 2018

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