Are You Aware of the Four Dementia Risk Factors?

Dementia and Alzheimers seem to be a topic of conversation more and more as longevity has become a reality for most of us. Boston University School of...

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Are You Aware of the Four Dementia Risk Factors?
5 Min Read May 16th, 2018

Dementia and Alzheimer’s seem to be a topic of conversation more and more as longevity has become a reality for most of us. Boston University School of Medicine studied this issue and discovered a number of factors which increased 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 dementias 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’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 have an impact on 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 the lifestyle changes that occur when you lose a spouse may have an impact on 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’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 which go untreated, like sleep apnea. If you are not getting sleep, or you think you suffer from sleep apnea, getting a sleep study completed is very important. 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 lifestyle then you should consider making changes to your lifestyle in order to get more sleep.

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Planning in advance for a successful future retirement is key. Longevity planning needs to include the financial costs and burdens that come with aging. Dementia is just one of many aging issues which will impact your health, savings, lifestyle and your family. The financial impact of the cost of long-term care is substantial. Caregiving is very hard on a 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 fulltime caregivers because of the physical demands. If you are 84 and your spouse is 82 how can you can expect an 80- year-old to be an effective caregiver? Plus the health impact on that elder caregiver is real.

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

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? This is where planning in advance for the financial costs and burdens of aging comes into play. The biggest plan prior to retirement is to add a Long-Term Care policy to your pre-retirement plan. Acting before you retire, when you are younger and more healthy, gives you more options and makes these plans very affordable.

Three types of plans are available. Traditional Long-Term Care Insurance policies provide the best value in many situations. In 45 states Long-Term Care Partnership policies exist which provide additional dollar-for-dollar asset protection. 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 very expensive but at some point you get your money back – or a long-term care benefit. The third option is a limited 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. This type of insurance requires an experienced specialist with experience very few financial advisors or general insurance agents possess.

Start by learning the cost of care in your state. Also learn the availability of partnership policies and available tax incentives:

Remember, you can’t wait to when you’re older and have health challenges to plan. Most people think these things will never happen to them. The fact is it happens to many of us. Longevity increases our risks of needing help with normal activities of daily living or supervision due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says if you reach the age of 65 you will have a 7 in 10 chance of needing some type of long-term care service or support: So the real question is “when” and “how long” will you need extended care?

Take charge of your future retirement now and safeguard savings while you make getting older easier on your family.  

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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

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