Alzheimer's Disease - 6th Biggest Cause of Death in America

When most people think of Alzheimer's, they usually think about long-term care. However, it is now the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Before people die, they need long-term health care services.

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Alzheimer's Disease - 6th Biggest Cause of Death in America
5 Min Read August 18th, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the top causes of death in the United States for the last reporting year - 2019. The report says that 271,872 persons died of dementia-related causes in the United States. This number does not count the many more people currently receiving long-term health care services due to dementia-related cognitive impairments. 

The CDC says that 2019 is the second year that deaths from dementia-related causes were included in this annual report to provide a more comprehensive estimate of the burden of mortality from Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias in the United States.

Preliminary statistics from the CDC will see little change in the causes of death in 2020, with the significant exception that COVID-19 will appear prominently.  COVID-19 also has a big impact on long-term care needs as well.

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death and the most common cause of dementia. There are many other forms of dementia that cause long-term care and, at some point, death. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal Degeneration
  • Vascular Dementia

These and other forms of dementia are usually indistinguishable from Alzheimer's Disease in their symptoms. Dementia-related diseases are one of the leading causes of long-term health care in the United States and worldwide. There is no cure for dementia of any kind. 

Dementia Requires Long-Term Health Care

Those who have dementia usually require supervision and help with daily activities. Health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, will not pay for the custodial care or supervision needed when a person has a decline in cognitive ability.

Medicaid will pay for dementia-related care but only if a person has little or no income and assets. Long-Term Care Insurance will also pay for this care, but a person cannot purchase a policy once they have been diagnosed with the condition. It is a product often purchased when a person is in their 50s when they still enjoy relatively good health. 

Washington State Long-Term Care Tax

One state, Washington, provides a very minimal long-term care benefit ($36,500 with $100 a day) funded with a payroll tax of 0.58 percent on anyone working. Unless a person owns a qualified Long-Term Care policy, you must pay the tax on 100% of all earned income. Experts say that numerous future tax increases will be necessary to fund even that benefit - Washington Long-Term Care | LTC News

In case you keep track of this type of thing, here is, by rank, the 15 leading causes of death in 2019:

  1. Diseases of heart (heart disease) 
  2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer) 
  3. Accidents (unintentional injuries) 
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases 
  5. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) 
  6. Alzheimer's Disease 
  7. Diabetes mellitus (diabetes) 
  8. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis (kidney disease) 
  9. Influenza and pneumonia 
  10. Intentional self-harm (suicide) 
  11. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 
  12. Septicemia 
  13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (hypertension) 14. Parkinson's Disease 
  14. Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids

Before Death = Long-Term Care

Many of those causes of death also often require long-term health care services and supports before a person dies. Because of the very high cost of care, many families either drain assets to pay for care services or family members are forced to become caregivers. 

The cost of long-term health care varies depending on location and type of care required. The cost of long-term care services gets more expensive every year. The costs increase yearly since they are linked to labor costs which increase every year Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News.

The financial impact of long-term care can vary dramatically. For example, the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows the average median cost of a nursing home in Arkansas in 2021 being $76,207 a year. In-home care and assisted living facilities are less expensive. Based on a 44 hour week, home care averages about $46,000 a year, with the base cost of assisted living running $38,663 a year Arkansas Long-Term Care | LTC News.

Compare those costs to Wisconsin, where the average nursing home is running $118,976 a year. A year of in-home care averages just over $58,000, and base assisted living runs $54,743 a year Wisconsin Long-Term Care | LTC News.

Greater Lifespans – Bigger Long-Term Care Risk

Long-term care is becoming very common because of greater lifespans due to medical advances. The CDC notes that a person aged 65 could expect to live an average of 19.6 more years, for a total of 84.6 years, and a person aged 85 could expect to live an average of 6.7 more years, for a total of 91.7 years.

People will see changes in their bodies as they get older. They also see declines in their health and mind the older they become. About half of all Americans who reach the age of 65 will need some long-term health care.

Unpaid and untrained family caregivers provide a substantial amount of long-term care. The Alzheimer's Association says there are currently over 11 million unpaid family caregivers caring for a loved one with some type of dementia. 

More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's or other dementias.

The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP found that the number of family caregivers caring for loved ones for all reasons increased by 9.5 million from 2015 to 2020 and now encompasses more than 53 million Americans - Unpaid Family Caregivers Now Total 53 Million People | LTC News.

Family caregivers have problems juggling the role of caregiver with their other responsibilities, including their job and other family concerns. One of the biggest burdens adult children face is taking care of both adult parents and their own families. 

There are tax incentives available on both the federal side and in many states if you a Long-Term Care Insurance policy Long-Term Care Tax Benefits Guide | LTC News. In 45 states Partnership Long-Term Care Insurance offers additional asset protection - Retirement Planning Secret - Partnership LTC Plans Shelter Assets | LTC News. Planning should start early, ideally in your 40s or 50s.

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Editor's Note

People require long-term health care services due to an illness, accident, or the impact of aging. Sometimes the need for care may only be for five or six months, often much longer. Older people, or those with other health problems, may require long-term care following back surgeries, for example. 

A person may recover and regain their independence. However, a person will not recover from many health or aging problems, like dementia, and will need long-term care for years. 

The problem of long-term care is both a cash flow issue and a family issue. Preparing your family and finances for the financial costs and burdens associated with long-term health care is key to enjoying a successful future retirement.

Many resources are available on LTC NEWS that help educate you about the options available to you to safeguard savings and income and reduce the stress on your loved ones from the costs and burdens of aging and changing health. 

As you prepare for your future retirement, better consider the physical, emotional, and financial burdens that get placed on you and your family.

Planning Resources on LTC NEWS

Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.

You can compare the major insurance companies that offer Long-Term Care Insurance products here - Top Insurers for Long-Term Care Insurance | LTC News.

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Be sure to seek the right type of professional help. Premiums can vary by over 100% between insurance companies, so a skilled and trusted professional can help you navigate the many companies and options.

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Reverse Mortgages Can Be Part of a Plan

If most of your assets are tied up in your home, today's reverse mortgages might help as the solution for either funding Long-Term Care Insurance or paying for care - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

Need Care Now? Need Help with LTC Insurance Claims?

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LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News. You can also help find caregivers and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy or not.

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