Most of us have experienced a loved one, a neighbor, or perhaps a friend's family member who starts to decline as they age. I remember the old lady living down the hall years ago.
She was a shriveled, slightly built woman who wore thick lens glasses. She painfully walked step by measured step. She fell in her apartment several times, and I noticed paramedics come by to get her up and see if she was okay. She still knew how to use the medical alert button she wore around her neck religiously.
Her daughter lived on the east coast, and while she visited her every few months, most of her visits were on FaceTime. She told me she was having problems shopping and cooking but didn't want to tell her family. Her daughter told me she kept forgetting things, like leaving the oven on after cooking or forgetting to turn the water off in the sink.
On one visit, her daughter said she wasn't bathing, and she was repeating stories over and over. The following weekend the lady moved out, moved into a memory wing of an assisted living facility out east. Her daughter and her husband told me they would pay for it since her mom had only a small amount of savings and a pension from when she was a teacher.
We All Age - But Differently
Aging can sometimes be a sad reality. While we all age differently, we all experience the challenges of getting older. If you are unaware of the growing problem of dementia, then you have not been paying attention.
Alzheimer's disease (and other types of dementia) is a leading cause of disability in the United States. Alzheimer's disease and related dementia (ADRD) is a progressive disease that starts with mild memory loss. As the disease progresses, it leads to the inability to carry on conversations and respond to the environment. The CDC says that Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia.
Leading Cause of Death and Disability
Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer's in 2022 - one in ten Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is the only disease in the ten leading causes of death in the United States that cannot be cured, prevented, or slowed.
People with ADRD often require supervision and help with daily living activities. They suffer from many problems that make them dependent on others. These things include, but are not limited to:
Forgetting the names of places and objects
Repeating themselves regularly
Problems with reasoning
Increasing confusion and disorientation
Obsessive, repetitive, or impulsive behavior
Frequent mood swings and depression
Alzheimer's Mortality Rate Increasing
In the last twenty years, the mortality rate from Alzheimer's disease and related dementias has more than doubled in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Medical science is reducing other reasons for death, but our risk of cognitive decline increases as we get older.
The number of older adults with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias is projected to double by 2050, reaching 12.7 million Americans. It is a worldwide problem affecting families and finances.
While death rates from ADRD were nearly identical in large metropolitan areas in 1999, it has changed substantially over the past two decades. Rural areas now experience the highest levels of ADRD mortality, while large metros have the lowest levels.
The problem with Alzheimer's is how it impacts the family. When a loved one gets diagnosed, the impact of that diagnosis is often overwhelming. If the loved one still enjoys overall good health, the person can live many years, but the quality of life is questionable.
Family Members Struggle
Family members are often the primary caregivers when a parent or other loved one starts to show the symptoms of dementia. The care recipient loses their identity and dignity and puts their family under tremendous stress. Most families are totally unprepared.
ADRD subjects your loved one to undue suffering that they can't understand. They have feelings such as sadness, fear, stress, confusion, or anxiety. They may look normal, but the brain changes affect their behavior. Your loved one is not the same person you knew and loved - but they remain your loved one, and they need your help more than ever.
Many people struggle with what to say and do when a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other dementia.
It is often shocking when someone you know reveals a dementia diagnosis. It leaves many people at a loss for words and actions. Loved ones who want to be supportive may be stopped because they fear they may be saying or doing the wrong thing.
While family members and friends may be well-intended in attempting to dismiss an Alzheimer's diagnosis, many living with the disease say such responses can be offensive, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
"It's hard enough to tell someone you have Alzheimer's, let alone have to defend it," said Laurie Waters, 57, Clover, S.C.
It drives me crazy when someone tells me I am too young or that I don't look like I have Alzheimer's. People living with Alzheimer's all look different. You may not see my illness, but I live it every day.
Need or Supervision and Long-Term Health Care
As the person with dementia requires supervision and help with daily activities, family members will usually become the default caregivers. The family quickly learns that health insurance and Medicare (including supplements) are not an answer to providing funding for the care the loved one needs.
A caregiver's job usually falls to one person, most often a daughter or daughter-in-law. They balance their caregiver's role with their job, careers, and other responsibilities. It isn't easy. Many caregivers face emotional and physical health problems themselves.
If the care recipient has Long-Term Care Insurance, they will quickly start to seek the benefits from the policy. Experts suggest not delaying the decision to use the benefits, even if only to provide respite care for the family caregiver early on.
Seek advice from the insurance company case manager for recommendations on a care plan. Don't let the daunting task of completing the claim process stop you from using the benefits of an LTC policy. LTC NEWS can help with the claim process and finding quality care providers - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News.
If your loved one does not have a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, you will have to use their income and savings to pay for care. It becomes too challenging for the family to remain caregivers for any length of time. Plus, family caregivers are usually not trained to provide long-term health care services, much less qualified to handle someone with Alzheimer's.
Depending on the amount of available assets, you could use adult day care centers during the day. Many adult day care centers have staff trained to offer support and services for those with dementia during the day. These adult day care centers can help the family caregiver and people with dementia, giving the caregiver with a much-needed break.
This helpful LTC NEWS Guide reviews adult day care centers and what they offer - Adult Day Care Centers (ADCCs).
If the Alzheimer's or related dementia progresses, your loved one may need more formal care. Many assisted living facilities can provide quality care options for those suffering from dementia. These memory care sections in assisted living deliver a higher level of care for the care recipient and greater security to prevent wandering - Assisted Living and Memory Care Facilities.
Long-Term Health Care Is Expensive
Don't be surprised that the cost of long-term health care, especially memory care, is expensive. Many people are shocked by the high cost of care and even more surprised that health insurance (including Medicare and Supplements) will not pay for this type of care.
The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows you the current and future cost of long-term health care based on where you live - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State.
Medicaid will pay for long-term health care but only if the care recipient has little or no income and assets. Plus, care is usually provided in a Medicaid nursing home.
Long-Term Care Insurance pays for all types and levels of long-term health care, but you cannot buy a policy 'when you need it.' You must have reasonably good health to qualify to get coverage. Most people do so in their 50s.
Economic Impact on Families and Society is Growing
The economic cost to both families and society is tremendous and growing. The problem of dementia and long-term health care, in general, also affects families. Preparing beforehand will protect assets and ease the burdens typically placed on those you love.
If you are like most people, you would rather not think or talk about the consequences of aging. There is no certainty you will avoid declining health, mobility problems, frailty, or dementia. You don't want to ponder if dementia or other long-term care needs will happen to you.
Yet, if you take proactive action, you can avoid some consequences. You cannot prevent aging and dementia. You can, however, have a plan that will protect your income and assets by providing guaranteed tax-free benefits that will give you access to your choice of quality care services.
Everyone Should Have a Plan
Long-Term Care Insurance is not appropriate for everyone, but everyone needs to have a discussion about long-term health care. Planning should start well before your retirement when you still can plan. LTC Insurance is medically underwritten, and premiums are based partly on your age when you obtain coverage.
Every insurance company has its own underwriting criteria and pricing. Premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. Be sure to speak with a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the best option. Most general insurance agents and financial advisors are not experienced in this area. The younger you are, the more affordable the premiums will be, so be sure to act early - How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?
Due to the potentially enormous costs of long-term care services, especially for someone with Alzheimer's, delaying a decision to LTC Insurance is not advised.
Most everyone who suffers from dementia or has another need for long-term health care thought at some point in their life that it would never happen to them. It does, and the numbers are growing as medical advances allow us to live longer and survive health events in greater numbers.
Even a small LTC policy can be helpful for you and your family. Avoid denial and start planning now.
About the Author
Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.
Contributor since December 11th, 2017
Long-Term Care Insurance means access to quality care. It also means choice. You get to choose the type of care, including care in your home. LTC Insurance also means income and asset protection. Care costs are exploding nationwide - your guaranteed tax-free benefits will ease the financial stress.
People need long-term health care services due to changing health, aging, and the impact of aging. Dementia is one of many reasons people will need long-term health care sometime in the future.
The consequences of your future aging affect your family and finances. When you own an LTC Insurance policy, you have a solution that gives you control and more independence. However, you cannot wait until you are older and need help. You must plan beforehand.
Have Questions About Long-Term Care Planning?
You might have questions about long-term health care planning, and LTC NEWS provides the answers for many of the most asked questions here - Frequently Asked Questions | LTC News. Find all the resources available on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.
Find the cost of care where you live by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News.
Get Expert Guidance
Long-term care is very specialized, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Find a specialist who represents the top companies, as premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. Leading specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance.
A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.
Experts recommend seeking the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right coverage at the right price.
Loved Ones Need Help Now?
Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News.
If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea.
Advantages of Reverse Mortgages
Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well.
Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement.
Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages.
- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.
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