Is Location Everything with Risk of Alzheimer’s?

Where you live could have an impact on your risk of Alzheimer's. However, none of us are immune from the financial costs and burdens of aging, including the chance at dementia. Planning is essential.

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Is Location Everything with Risk of Alzheimer’s?
4 Min Read December 17th, 2020

You have heard the phrase "location, location, location" when speaking about real estate. Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests a connection between where a person lives and brain changes, including Alzheimer's.  

The study shows that people living in lower-income neighborhoods have an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease-related brain changes at death. 

Quoted on the Banner Alzheimer's Institute website, Dr. Amy Kind, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin Social of Medicine and Public Health, said where we live, work, and play influences our health and overall well-being.

"These are referred to as social determinants of health and include housing quality, income, education, and employment. They've been a cornerstone of research for a variety of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer," Kind said.

Low-Income Neighbors Add Risk for Cognitive Decline?

Dr. Kind is one of the researchers who studied the social determinants of health and how it might impact an individual's risk for Alzheimer's. They studied 477 people who had donated their brains after death for research. The scientists looked at social factors to see any connection between where they lived and brain issues.  

By looking at their neighborhood by using the Area Deprivation Index, which is available to anyone who wants to use it through the Neighborhood Atlas, they were able to connect the dots.

The study showed that disadvantaged neighborhoods had an 8.1% increase in the odds of having brain changed related to Alzheimer's disease. The poorest neighborhoods had the highest risk for brain changes related to Alzheimer's disease, with 2.18 increased odds of these changes being noted.

The researchers will need more research to determine why this is the case and if any social changes could mitigate future outcomes. Alzheimer's is associated with genetic, lifestyle, and environmental determinants that can affect the brain cells and cause memory loss. There are many forms of dementia, with Alzheimer's being the most common form of dementia.  

Several Symptoms Associated with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's causes several memory issues and sensory changes in an individual. In addition, many psychological changes occur. 

Some of the symptoms include, in addition to memory loss, include:  

  • Problems with communication
  • Difficulty reasoning and solving problems
  • Inability to complete complex tasks
  • General confusion and disorientation
  • Problems with motor functions and coordination
  • Reduced visual perception
  • Metallic taste in the mouth and decreased sense of smell

Some of the psychological changes include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Behavior and personality changes
  • Agitation
  • Apathy
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings

Family Become Caregivers as Health Insurance Won’t Cover Supervisory Care

The problems tend to increase over time, requiring an individual to be supervised and receive help with daily activities that most people would find otherwise routine. This extended care is often provided by unpaid family members placing tremendous burdens and stress on the family since health insurance, and Medicare will not pay for most of this care.

People who own Long-Term Care Insurance can avail themselves to care paid for by the policy. Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for both in-home and facility care. However, since this type of insurance is medically underwritten, a person must purchase a policy when they still enjoy reasonably good health. 

Experts recommend obtaining coverage in your 40s or 50s when premiums are low, and health is usually much better. Once a person gets to age 60, preexisting health is sometimes an issue, and applicants must complete a cognitive exam as part of the underwriting process. 

Paid Care Is Expensive and Cost Growing

The cost of long-term health care is expensive but will vary depending on where a person lives and the type of care they require. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator says that nursing home costs can run over $100,000 a year depending on location. However, most long-term care services are delivered outside a nursing home, including in-home care, adult day care centers, assisted living facilities, and memory care facilities. 

An analysis from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance stated that in 2019 70% of all LTC Insurance claims started with in-home care.

Where you live could have an impact on your risk of Alzheimer's. However, none of us are immune from the financial costs and burdens of aging, including the chance at dementia. Planning is essential.

With greater longevity, the financial costs and burdens of aging will continue to be a problem most American families will have to address. The problem of long-term care, including memory care, is both a cash flow issue and a family issue. Obtaining an affordable solution before retirement is essential for both family and finances. 

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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

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