This is an article that nobody wants to read. You would probably instead rather read about dogs or cats, football, baseball, golf, shopping, upcoming clothing trends … anything but long-term care and death.
So, why are you reading this far? We can’t prevent death, but perhaps we can do things to lead a longer, better quality of life. Can we avert long-term care? No, but there are things we can do to reduce the costs and burdens that come from the impact of aging.
COVID-19 and Death Rates
COVID-19 is becoming a leading cause of death in the United States and around the world. However, the ranking of COVID-19 deaths varies month by month. Plus, doctors include COVID-19 as a cause of death in some locations, even if it is not the primary reason for death.
Nonetheless, COVID-19 is a big concern, especially for those people age 75 and older. For several months in 2020, COVID-19 became the third leading cause of death. It trailed heart disease and cancer. COVID-19 during those months was responsible for the death of more people than strokes, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, kidney disease, or the flu.
With better treatment and a vaccine, the number of people who die from COVID-19 should drop considerably. So, for now, we will not consider COVID-19 in our top five list.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the top reasons for death in the United States have changed throughout the years, primarily due to advances in medical science. Some experts also suggest some behavior changes also impact this list. So, let’s look at the leading causes of death:
#5: Alzheimer's Disease
Coming in at number 5 is Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. The fact Alzheimer's is number five should not be a huge surprise since we live in an aging America. This cause of death didn't even make the list in 1980. More people are living longer. Once you get past age 80 your risk of cognitive decline increases. Alzheimer's has had an enormous impact on American families, their savings, and their lifestyle.
There is little to do to prevent Alzheimer's or dementia, at least not yet. However, there are ways some experts suggest might help delay. Staying active, both physically and mentally, is always a good idea. Experts say by keeping busy, especially as you get older, enables you to stay more alert. Diet is also helpful. A heart-healthy diet is also a healthy brain diet.
If you, or a loved one, have dementia, be sure you have quality care to maintain health and prevent quick decline.
#4: Cerebrovascular Disease
Strokes come in at number four. The good news here is more people are aware of the signs of a stroke, so our chance of survival is enhanced. Add to advances in stroke care, and you might recover from a stroke instead of dying or being disabled.
Quick intervention and improved medical treatment are the reasons fewer people die from a stroke. Use FAST to remember and recognize the following signs and symptoms of stroke:
- F: Face drooping. See if the person can smile and look if one side is drooping. One side of the face may also be numb, and the smile may appear uneven.
- A: Arm weakness. Have the person attempt to raise both arms. Is there weakness or numbness on one side? One arm drifting downward is a sign of one-sided arm weakness.
- S: Speech difficulty. Stroke victims may slur their speech or not be able to speak at all. Speech may be unintelligible. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and look for any speech abnormality.
- T: Time to call 9-1-1! If a person shows any of the symptoms above, even if the symptoms went away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to a hospital immediately.
#3: Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
COPD is now at number three, which might surprise some people. It is often related to smoking or environmental causes, including prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke. Patients with COPD must carefully manage exacerbations and respiratory infections. This is where the condition can turn from chronic to fatal. Some of those who suffer from COPD still smoke, which is never a good thing. The lack of activity because of their lack of energy from breathing issues also leads to a high risk of deadly pneumonia.
Medications and treatment do allow people a better quality of life if they manage the condition correctly, and not too much damage to their lungs has been done.
Coming in at number two is the BIG C. Cancer has retained the same place on the list, but the actual number of deaths has increased significantly. Part of the problem with cancer is it is not just one disease. There are so many types and forms of cancer; it makes treatment and cures more difficult.
People are living longer after a cancer diagnosis than ever before. However, often the treatment is challenging and usually unsuccessful in the long-term. New treatments are being studied around the country for many different types of cancer. Those who suffer from more advanced cancers often research the latest advances as it poses a higher health risk or initial treatment is unsuccessful.
#1: Heart Disease
Staying at the top spot for the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Women, however, are catching up with men in death rates due to heart-related issues. The CDC reports that 80% of heart disease deaths are attributable to lifestyle factors. Because lifestyle is a factor, you might be able to reduce your risk with changes in diet, activity, and overall health management. Plus, more conservative treatment of high blood pressure will help minimize heart attack and stroke risk.
With new and improved medications, medical procedures, and more advanced surgical procedures that repair damaged heart valves can help those with heart disease live longer.
Top Reasons for Long-Term Care Services and Supports:
Now that we covered the top five causes of death, how about the things that happen before we pass-away? Yes, that is long-term care. Our longevity has caused a great need for help with our daily living activities or even supervision due to cognitive decline. The advances in medical science that help us not die too soon allow us to live longer. Longevity itself has become a risk for long-term care.
The Society of Actuaries examined the causes or reasons for new Long-Term Care Insurance claims. The report shows that almost one in four claims was initially attributable to a cognitive problem like Alzheimer’s disease. There are many types of dementia that cause cognitive decline.
When a person has dementia, they will require supervision. As a person lives with the disease, they will also have other health issues attributed directly or indirectly to their dementia.
Since people require long-term care due to illness, accidents, or the impact of aging, there are many other reasons people need extended care, whether it is skilled, semi-skilled, or non-skilled home services. These include
- arthritis/bone and joint issues
- circulatory problems
- nervous system issues
- respiratory issues
- mental illness (non-related to dementia)
- frailty due to age
The solution for the financial costs and burdens of aging for most people is affordable Long-Term Care Insurance. Attempting to have a spouse or adult child, or their spouse, to be a caregiver is not a real solution.
If you are older when you need extended care, so will your spouse. True, not everyone who needs long-term care services is elderly; often, they can be much younger.
People require care services due to illnesses, accidents, or just the impact of getting older. Early-onset Alzheimer's, strokes, Parkinson's, cancer, and other health problems can and do happen at all ages. Your spouse will either be older and unable to be a caregiver or younger and find it hard to provide the services most people will require.
Your adult children will have their own careers, families, and responsibilities. The ability to add the role of 'caregiver' to that list is not realistic.
You could pay for long-terms are services out of your savings if you have enough. However, even if you have substantial assets, the cost of care will drain those savings and adversely impact your spouse's lifestyle and income. Plus, for couples, the other spouse (usually the wife) will have many more years of lifespan and will need resources for their retirement.
The easy and affordable solution is Long-Term Care Insurance. Today's Long-Term Care Insurance is very affordable, especially if purchased prior to retirement. These plans come in many types and policy designs. Some of these provide a death benefit or return of premium if you never require care.
TOTAL ASSET PROTECTION PLAN
Total asset protection means UNLIMITED long-term care benefits. This way, you know you will never exhaust your insurance or have to drain your savings. For those who wish to leave a legacy or have a strong family history, a plan like this guarantees that you and your family will be left intact financially no matter what happens.
The cost of a total asset protection plan is higher, but some have a death benefit or return of premium. For some people, this could be a perfect solution.
PARTNERSHIP/SHARED BENEFIT PLAN
Usually, the most popular way consumers plan is with an affordable Partnership Long-Term Care policy. These plans will cover the most likely costs that you will encounter in a long-term care situation. Most states offer Long-Term Care Partnership policies. These qualified plans provide additional dollar-for-dollar asset protection in the event you exhaust your insurance benefits. When you own a partnership policy, you know you will never lose all your savings no matter what happens.
For couples, shared benefit plans provide additional flexibility, and a couple can pool their benefits. These work in a variety of ways, but unless you get a TOTAL ASSET PROTECTION plan, this is the best way to give your family flexibility and asset protection.
MODEST PARTNERSHIP PLAN
If you live in a Long-Term Care Partnership state, you can design a small policy that will provide you with resources for care, especially for care at home, and protect your assets. This means if you have less than $200,000 in assets, you can protect all your savings at a very low premium. See if your state is a partnership state by clicking here.
LIMITED BENEFIT/SHORT TERM PLAN
Something is always better than nothing. This plan design gives you money for care at home, making it easier for your family. While it will pay only for a limited amount of services, it will be enough to reduce the burdens placed on your family members. Premiums for these plans can be very low and affordable for most people.
So, you read this far. You have been reading about a topic that is not one most people want to even think about. Sure, reading about pets or sports could be more pleasant, but your future longevity has a significant impact on those you love, including your pets … (here is the pet photo ...)
Your pets will not be able to take care of you as you age. Your family won’t be able to either. This is why you should consider planning for the financial costs and burdens of aging before retirement. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance will safeguard your 401(k) IRA SEP 403(b) and make getting older easier on those you love.
About the Author
An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.
Contributor since August 21st, 2017
LTC NEWS offers multiple tools and resources to help you research the financial costs and burdens of aging so you can find an affordable solution. Your health, body, and mind will change as you get older. Planning when you are younger and healthier is essential to enjoy a successful future retirement.
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