Are You Aware of the Four Dementia Risk Factors?

Dementia significantly impacts families, with the primary caregiver often being a spouse or adult child who must provide physical and emotional support to their loved one. It can also strain the family's finances; advance planning will protect savings and help you access quality care.

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Are You Aware of the Four Dementia Risk Factors?
5 Min Read May 16th, 2018 Updated:January 26th, 2023

Dementia and Alzheimer's seem to be a topic of conversation more and more as longevity has become a reality for most of us. It is hard to find families that have not been impacted by dementia.

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that around 13.9 million Americans will be affected by dementia or Alzheimer's in 2023. This figure is projected to increase in the years ahead due to the aging population and increased awareness of these conditions. As such, it is estimated that the total number of individuals affected by dementia or Alzheimer's in the United States will increase to 16 million by the year 2050.

Over the past ten years, the prevalence of Alzheimer's and dementia has skyrocketed. According to the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of dementia has surged by 41% since 2010. 

Aging - Leading Reason for Dementia

One of the primary drivers of this increase is the aging population, leading to more elderly individuals being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and dementia. Additionally, an increase in awareness of these conditions has allowed for earlier diagnosis, which is contributing to the rise in prevalence.

This is a global problem. According to estimates from Alzheimer's U.K., it is estimated that around 850,000 people in England are living with dementia or Alzheimer's. About 564,000 Canadians are living with dementia or Alzheimer's. There are 425,000 Australians, 103,000 New Zealanders, 3.3 million Mexicans, 10 million Chinese, 3.2 million Russians, 10 million people in the European Union, and 3.5 million Brazilians living with dementia or Alzheimer's.   

Several Factors Leading to Dementia

Boston University School of Medicine has been studying Alzheimer's disease for decades. Their research focuses on elucidating the molecular pathways of the disease and developing new diagnostics and treatments that can prevent and help manage the disorder. The team has researched genetic risk factors, biomarkers, and drug development and has published seminal findings in major medical journals. 

The researchers are also actively exploring new ways to diagnose and manage the condition, such as innovative approaches to brain imaging and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid. Ultimately, the team's goal is to significantly contribute to helping people who have Alzheimer's disease.

Boston University School of Medicine, (now known as the Boston University Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine,) research has discovered several factors which increase the standard risk of dementia as a person ages. 

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, wanted to focus on modifiable risk factors which could help people plan the right interventions to effectively reduce their chances of developing the disease. While many factors lead to dementia, and many different types of dementia exist, anything you can do to reduce the risk can lead to a better future retirement. The advancements in medical science do allow us to live longer and longer. This longevity, by itself, is a risk factor. The study identified four areas we can address to reduce our risk of dementia.

Age: The Alzheimer's Association says one in three senior Americans dies with some form of dementia. Aging itself is a risk factor. The longer one lives, the bigger the risk. However, the study shows how a person'sperson's belief system on aging itself can impact this risk. The more positive you are about getting older, the better off you are avoiding dementia.

BMI: Research on this has resulted in different data; however, this study suggests that being overweight in middle age may impact your risk of dementia when you are older. We already know the other health issues of being overweight (diabetes, heart and stroke risks, for example). This is one more reason why you should exercise and watch your weight.

Marital Status: Being ""widowed"" was strongly associated with dementia in this study. The thinking is that lifestyle changes that occur when you lose a spouse may affect a person's increased risk of dementia. Being "social" and still living your life after losing a spouse can have strong positive effects on one'sone's own health.

Sleep: Not getting enough sleep, again in middle age, can contribute to cognitive decline as you get older. Some people have sleep disorders that go untreated, like sleep apnea. Getting a sleep study completed is very important if you are not getting sleep or you think you suffer from sleep apnea. If you do have sleep apnea, you must be compliant with the use of the CPAP machine or dental device. If you are not sleeping because of your lifestyle, consider making changes to your lifestyle to get more sleep.

Lonely? Could Increase Dementia Risk

Even loneliness can be a factor in future dementia, according to Wendy Qiu, MD, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and pharmacology & experimental therapeutics at Boston University Medical School.

Whereas persistent loneliness is a threat to brain health, psychological resilience following adverse life experiences may explain why transient loneliness is protective in the context of dementia onset.

A perceived gap between intended and actual social ties can lead to the irrational emotion of loneliness. Even though loneliness does not qualify as a clinical condition in and of itself, it is linked to several detrimental health effects, such as sleep problems, depressive symptoms, cognitive decline, and stroke.

No Cure for Alzheimer's and Dementia Anytime Soon

While a definitive cure for dementia or Alzheimer's remains elusive, research over the past two decades has identified several promising pathways that could lead to promising treatments in the next 20 years. 

Many experts believe that new diagnostics, drug treatments, genetic therapies, and preventive lifestyle changes will improve the prospects for people with dementia or Alzheimer's significantly over the next decade. In addition, research into early detection and prevention of Alzheimer's may delay the onset and progression of the disease, thus decreasing the number of people with advanced forms of the condition in the coming years. 

While a full-blown cure for dementia or Alzheimer's in the next 20 years is probably unrealistic, the advancements in science and technology have given us greater hope that treatments to improve the quality of life and slow the progression of the disease will emerge before the end of the next two decades.

Aging Happens - Preparing in Advance is Vital

Aging happens, and the need to prepare for the future costs and burdens of declining health and aging should be part of your retirement plan. Dementia is just one of many aging issues impacting your health, savings, lifestyle, and family. The financial impact of the cost of long-term care is substantial. 

Caregiving is tough on an elder spouse or your adult children later in life. The burden placed on family caregivers is physical, emotional, and financial. Remember, elder spouses are not in a good position to be full-time caregivers because of the physical demands. 

If you are 84 and your spouse is 82, how can you expect an 80-year-old to be an effective caregiver? Plus, the health impact on that older caregiver is a real concern.

Being a mom, spouse, and caregiver is demanding. Adult children have their own careers and family responsibilities. Often, a daughter or daughter-in-law becomes a caregiver when no advance plan has been put in place. Also, these women often have their own careers on top of these other responsibilities.

The "sandwich generation" is burdened with balancing their career, family, and caregiving responsibility for an older parent. Can you plan to reduce this burden on your children in the decades ahead?  

Solution for Planning? 

What is the solution? First, always try to reduce risk factors. Good health is always a good idea … but remember: longevity in itself is a risk factor

What else can you do? The most crucial plan before retirement is to add a Long-Term Care Insurance policy to your retirement plan. Acting before you retire, when you are younger and healthier, gives you more options and makes Long-Term Care Insurance very affordable.

Three types of plans are available. Traditional Long-Term Care Insurance policies provide the best value in many situations. In most states Long-Term Care Partnership policies provide additional dollar-for-dollar asset protection. 

What is the Partnership Program in Long-Term Care Insurance?

Asset-based plans, which the industry calls "hybrid" plans, combine a life insurance policy or annuity with a long-term care benefit. Be careful; many of these plans make it much more difficult to obtain benefits for long-term care. However, good plans exist and offer death benefits. They can be costly, but at some point, you get your money back – or a long-term care benefit. 

The third option is a limited cash indemnity benefit plan or what the industry calls "short-term care." These are good for people who are either older or have some health issues. A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can help you choose the right option and policy design to fit your situation. 

Long-term care planning requires an experienced specialist since very few financial advisors or general insurance agents possess. Specialists will match your age, health, and family history with the best option and provide accurate quotes and professional recommendations.

Take charge of your future retirement now and safeguard savings while you make getting older easier on your family. Most people start planning in their 40s or 50s as part of their retirement plan. 

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

You know what happens as you get older. Between chronic health problems, mobility issues, dementia, and just frailty, aging will lead to needing help with everyday living activities. 

As you age, there is an increased risk of falls, accidents, and injuries that can come with aging. Many older adults go into isolation to avoid some of these risks because they have no one watching out for them in their homes.

Quality long-term health care enables older adults to remain as independent as possible and maintain their dignity, autonomy, and connection to others. Indeed, that is what you want for yourself and your spouse as you age.

 Plus, having quality care means you get emotional support which helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Without professional long-term health care, one of your adult children will often step in and become your caregiver. Family members are usually untrained and unprepared for being a caregiver. These challenges are burdensome on your adult children and their families. 

Some of these challenges include:

  • Difficulty in maintaining a job and family responsibilities with that of being a caregiver

  • Feelings of guilt or a lack of self-care for one's own needs

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caregiving 

  • Feeling financially stretched as they take more time off working and more time being a caregiver

  • Feeling emotionally drained from caregiving

  • Difficulty dealing with siblings as one person becomes responsible for your care

Long-Term Care Insurance will help you maintain control and independence. You will have tax-free funds to pay for your choice of quality care, including in-home care. Your loved ones will have the time to be family instead of caregivers.

Don't delay, as LTC Insurance is medically underwritten. 

How Does LTC Insurance Underwriting Impact Ability to Obtain Long-Term Care Insurance?

Premiums are based on several factors, including:

·        age

·        gender

·        health 

·        family history

·        selection of riders and options

·        amount of benefits within the policy

How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?

LTC Insurance Specialist Can Benefit You

A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can be beneficial by providing the knowledge and experience necessary to help you select the best policy to meet your needs. 

Specialists can help to explain the different types of coverage, assess your needs based on your current health, financial resources, and family members, and evaluate potential policy options to determine the best fit for a consumer's budget and needs. 

These experts in long-term health care planning can also assist you in understanding the tax benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance and how it fits into retirement planning. You can save time and money by using a specialist's assistance to assess various policies' prospective costs and coverage. Premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies, as do their underwriting rules.

A qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will match you with the best company to save you money. A specialist will put together accurate quotes from all the top companies based on your age, health, family history, and other factors.

Resources on LTC NEWS

LTC NEWS offers news, guidance, and resources to assist you in long-term health care planning. Additionally, LTC NEWS provides reviews of various Long-Term Care Insurance plans. 

Here are some of the resources that are available on LTC NEWS:

Parent’s Health Declining? Do They Need Care Now?

Get quality care for your parent or parents if they require it. LTC NEWS can assist. We've put together a few comprehensive guides to help you along the way.

Find help locating 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.

Make sure your loved one uses their Long-Term Care Insurance if they are fortunate enough to have it. Families sometimes postpone taking advantage of the benefits thinking family members can provide care, saving the benefits for later when it is deemed "more necessary."

Delaying the use of available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a good idea. The policy provides you with access to quality care when someone needs it. It also gives loved one’s time to family instead of caregivers.

These four guides can be very helpful as you try to find appropriate long-term care services for a loved one:

 Today's Reverse Mortgages Can Benefit Older Families

Some people have a large portion of their savings in their homes. With the help of reverse mortgages, you can find ways to pay for quality in-home care, pay for LTC Insurance, and even assist with cash flow during retirement.

Yes, today's reverse mortgages may be the perfect way to pay for a Long-Term Care Insurance policy or even cover the cost of in-home care if you or a loved one is currently in need.

Asking an expert with your questions will help you learn more. Mike Banner, a columnist for LTC NEWS and the host of the television program "62 Who Knew," will respond to your inquiries about long-term care, reverse mortgages, aging, and health.

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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