Extended Family History of Alzheimer’s May Increase Your Risk

Caring for a loved one with dementia is challenging and costly; planning is vital for families and finances. If you have first-degree relatives with dementia, it increases your risk. Being prepared is critical.

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Extended Family History of Alzheimer’s May Increase Your Risk
4 Min Read May 28th, 2021 Updated:April 9th, 2022

If you have a family member who has Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, you might be wondering if you have a higher risk of having dementia yourself. 

More people in the United States and worldwide now have dementia than ever before. Most experts suggest that longevity is the primary driver for the higher rates of Alzheimer's and dementia. 

When you have dementia, it is a crisis for you and the family. Your family and finances will be affected, especially if you have no plan to address the high costs and related family burdens of memory loss and other aging-related health problems.

Family History Increases Dementia Risk

Family history research shows that if you have a first-degree relative diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, your risk of developing it increases by 30%. A first-degree relative includes parents and siblings. 

If you have multiple first-degree relatives with Alzheimer's, the risk of developing Alzheimer's in your lifetime increases above average. 

Sometimes it may skip a generation, so understanding your grandparent's health history can be helpful. However, consider that life expectancy was less in previous generations, so family members may not have lived long enough to develop the disease. 

Any disease, including Alzheimer's and other dementias, that runs in families will be due to genetics (hereditary factors), environmental factors, or both. However, Alzheimer's Association says family history is not necessary for an individual to develop Alzheimer's.

Extended Family History Also Increases Alzheimer's Risk

Recent research shows that looking at family history from an expanded view may give us a better view of potential risk.

Lisa Cannon-Albright, Ph.D., professor and Program Leader of Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Utah Health, said the research team was surprised to learn that even third-degree relatives affected the risk.

Second-degree relatives refer to grandparents/grandchildren, blood-related aunts and uncles and nieces, nephews, and siblings who share one parent. Third-degree relatives include first cousins, great-grandparents/great-grandchildren, great uncles, great aunts, great-nieces, and great-nephews.

Lisa Cannon-Albright, Ph.D.

"We were able to find that the risk for developing Alzheimer's was significantly increased for each additional relative affected by the disease," Cannon-Albright said.

"It's interesting to think about the fact that shared genes are enough to show that your risk is affected." 

The research results show the risk of an individual with one first-degree relative and one second-degree relative diagnosed with Alzheimer's is 21 times greater than the population rate for developing the disease. 

In addition, an individual with a negative history of Alzheimer's among first-degree relatives but positive history among three or more second-degree relatives still have a two-fold increase in risk and a 17–44 percent increase in risk for those with two or more third-degree relatives. 

Multiple first-degree relatives with a dementia history can prevent a person from obtaining Long-Term Care Insurance from some companies. They have started to use some limited amounts of family history in their underwriting. 

Dementia Care Costly and Usually Not Covered by Health Insurance & Medicare

Health insurance and Medicare (including supplements) will not pay for most long-term care costs, including supervision required by many people who are inflicted with Alzheimer's. 

The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows that care costs continue to rise nationwide, although the costs are lower in some areas of the country than in others. 

Experts suggest reviewing family medical history to determine if you have a higher-than-average risk for dementia. 

If a family member has Alzheimer's Disease, will I have it, too? Full transcript below.

People Need Long-Term Health Care for Many Reasons

People require long-term care services and supports for many reasons, in addition to Alzheimer's and other dementias. Planning for the future costs and burdens of aging is essential for retirement planning. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance may be one of the tools you use to safeguard assets and reduce family stress and anxiety as you get older.

The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's and other dementias is increasing age. Longevity is not a direct cause of Alzheimer's; however, most people with the disease are 65 and older.

More women than men suffer from cognitive decline; however, it is unknown if this is just because women live longer than men. Science has discovered other risk factors, but keep in mind that many people have dementia without any specific risk factors. 

Some of these risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Vascular injury
  • Inflammatory diet
  • Chronic stress and sleep problems

Providing Care for Someone With Dementia is Difficult

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's or other dementia is emotionally and physically exhausting, even more so for a family member. Family caregivers are typically untrained and unprepared for this demanding job.

Since health insurance, including Medicare (and supplements), will not pay for dementia care and most forms of long-term health care, many families find themselves in crisis trying to provide care for a loved one or pay for the required professional care. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers several tips for family caregivers who must care for a loved one with memory problems. Those with Alzheimer's and dementia have difficulty with everyday thinking and reasoning, in addition to forgetfulness. This means the care recipient needs to be supervised. But as their memory declines and the disease progresses, the care recipient will require help with daily living activities and everyday tasks and cannot be left alone. 

Another problem for family members caring for a loved one with dementia is communication. Not only is their ability for reasoning affected, but their language abilities are also impacted where they have trouble finding the right words or have difficulty speaking.

If the care recipient is being cared for at home or at a loved one's home, safety is another concern. Removing hazards and adding safety features around the home is essential to their safety. Simple safety measures can allow the care recipient more freedom to move around independently and safely.

See a complete list of tips and ideas for families with a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia by visiting NIH's site - Tips for Caregivers and Families of People With Dementia (alzheimers.gov)

Are You Prepared for Aging and Changing Health and Dementia?

Professional long-term health care is costly, be it in-home care or facilities like assisted living, memory care, or nursing homes. Remember that you are responsible for paying for long-term care unless you have little or no income and assets; in that case, Medicaid will pay. 

Many American families consider Long-Term Care Insurance as a solution to ensure they have quality care in the future without draining their assets or creating a burden on their loved ones. 

However, you cannot purchase a Long-Term Care Insurance policy if you have Alzheimer's, for example. You must have reasonably good health to obtain coverage. Most people obtain coverage in their 50s when they still enjoy adequately good health and premiums are still affordable. 

Seek the assistance of a qualified and trusted Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you navigate the many options available. Be ready to share your family history as you discuss the available options.

Some insurance companies will use family history, to some extent, in their underwriting process. Be sure to share family history when considering Long-Term Care Insurance since every insurance company has its own underwriting guidelines. 

Lifespans are expanding, which means we will all suffer from some health decline, including memory loss. These changes in our health, body, and mind mean many of us will need help with daily activities or supervision due to memory loss. 

Avoid a family crisis as you plan your future retirement, including addressing long-term health care.

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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”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

Editor's Note

People require long-term health care for many reasons, not just because of dementia. The costs of care are expensive and get more costly over time. Family caregivers face physical stress and emotional anxiety in the role of being a caregiver.

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance offers guaranteed tax-free benefits for your choice of quality care, including in-home care. A policy will keep you in control and be less dependent on your loved ones. 

Long-Term Care Insurance is an affordable way to provide yourself with your choice of quality care options, including in-home care. You will not only protect your assets from the high costs of long-term care services, but you will also give your loved ones the time to be family instead of caregivers.

Most people obtain coverage in their 50s. Every insurance company has its own underwriting rules. Be sure you share all your health information with a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who works with the top companies so they can find you the best coverage at the best value.

Get Expert Assistance in Planning

Long-term care is a very specialized area, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Seek the help of a specialist who represents the top companies. 

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. 

Top specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance, some in the thousands. This experience is necessary as every company has its own underwriting criteria. Plus, premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. 

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.

LTC NEWS Offers Many Planning Tools and Resources 

Planning for the future is never easy, but long-term health care planning can be very complicated and comes with many emotions. Getting the right tools and resources will make the process much easier.

One of the goals is to reduce the stress and anxiety usually placed on your family at the time of crisis. LTC NEWS can be beneficial in providing you with important information for you to consider.

LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:

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

Finding Quality Care for Mom or Dad

If your family is already in crisis and you need to find help for mom or dad, LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.

Start by reading our four guides -  

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. 

Get Help in Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim

Many insurance companies have issued Long-Term Care Insurance policies over the years. Filing a claim can sometimes be complicated unless you know what to do or get expert help and assistance. 

Don't allow the claim process to stop you from using the benefits available in an LTC policy. Quality care obtained early will help provide a better quality of life and reduce the risk of a deep decline and facility care. 

If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you, or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. We have teamed up with Amada Senior Care, who will do all the work - free with no obligation. 

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

Benefits 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. 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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You can write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. You can write about many topics, including aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, retirement planning, and long-term care, to name a few.

Be sure to write for our core target audience of adults aged 40 and older. Our audience is worldwide; however, our primary target is the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other English-speaking nations. 

Improve your website or blog's SEO and gain exposure and traffic at the same time by being a contributor to LTC NEWS. 

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Email your story idea or article: newsroom@ltcnews.com - LTC News Contributors | LTC News

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Use LTC NEWS to drive traffic to your website and help you attract people interested in your products and services. Plus, you can improve your website's SEO so more consumers can find you when they search for your products and services.

There are various marketing options available with LTC NEWS. Traditional advertising, sponsored content articles, strategic alliances, and more are available. 

Learn more about how LTC NEWS can help you market your business, drive traffic, and improve SEO - Advertise With Us | LTC News.

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Include LTC NEWS in your press release distribution. If your group, organization, business, political committee, etc., have news to share, send it to LTC NEWS. Email - newsroom@ltcnews.com  


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