One of the biggest fears about aging is memory loss. Few families have avoided some experience with dementia. Growing longevity plays a role as Alzheimer's and other dementias are not "contagious" but are mainly driven by aging.
The Alzheimer's Association 2022 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report said 12 to 18% of adults age 60 and over have "mild cognitive impairment (MCI)." MCI may be a precursor to actual dementia, including Alzheimer's and other health and behavior issues.
An estimated 6.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, with more than one in ten older adults suffering from early-stage memory or cognitive problems.
Memory Decline Happening Earlier Than Thought
Memory issues are one of the leading causes of long-term health care worldwide. The costs of caring for those with dementia have been increasing rapidly in recent years due to higher demand for services, labor shortages, and elevated labor costs.
The Alzheimer's Association says 10% to 15% of individuals with MCI develop dementia each year. With the population getting older, the association says so too will be the number and proportion of Americans with Alzheimer's and other dementias. The U.S. population age 65 and older is expected to reach 88 million by the year 2050, up from 58 million reported in 2021.
Since health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, pay little or nothing for long-term health care, the financial impact on American families is tremendous, with few families having the resources to pay for quality care options.
While some people own Long-Term Care Insurance, in most cases, families will self-fund professional care, or adult children take the role of being their parent's caregiver. Family caregivers juggle the hardships of being caregivers with their career and family responsibilities.
Cognitive Impairment is Not Normal Aging - But Becoming More Common
"Mild cognitive impairment is often confused with 'normal aging,' but is not part of the typical aging process," said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association.
Not everyone with MCI will go on to have dementia, but it is surprising how common mild cognitive impairment is. With more people getting older, more families will be impacted by Alzheimer's and need supervision and other long-term health care services.
"About one-third of people with MCI due to Alzheimer's disease develop Alzheimer's dementia within five years. Identifying which individuals living with MCI are more likely to develop dementia is a major goal of current research, potentially enabling earlier disease intervention and treatment," Carrillo said.
Despite the prevalence among aging Americans, the new report found more than 4 in 5 Americans know very little or are not familiar with MCI. When prompted with a description of MCI, 55% say MCI sounds like "normal aging."
When MCI due to Alzheimer's disease is described, almost half of respondents express worry about developing it in the future. Despite these concerns, a large majority (85%) would want to learn about Alzheimer's disease early in its development, either during the MCI phase (54%) or mild dementia stage (31%).
While the public seems to want to learn about these concerns, the question is, will they be motivated to plan for the high costs and burdens that come with aging, declining health, and dementia.
Dementia Care Costs Skyrocketing
Long-term health care costs are already over $100,000 a year for a nursing home. Most care is provided at home or in adult day care and assisted living. Those costs are less expensive but are growing rapidly. The costs vary depending on where you live - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News.
The Alzheimer's Association said in 2021, an estimated $321 billion (not including unpaid caregiving) was spent in providing care services for those with dementia.
These dementia care costs are rising with all long-term health care costs, with total payments for health care, long-term care, and hospice care for people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias projected to increase to nearly $1 trillion in the year 2050.
People are Reluctant to Talk About Memory Decline
The report also shows a reluctance on the public to discuss potential memory issues with their doctors. Only 40% responded they would tell their doctor right away if they were experiencing some memory decline, with 60% avoiding it altogether.
Nearly 8 in 10 respondents expressed concerns about seeing a doctor for symptoms of MCI, citing several reasons, including:
- Receiving an incorrect diagnosis
- Fear of receiving an unnecessary treatment
- Believing symptoms will resolve in time
"Understanding and recognizing mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's disease is important because it provides an earlier opportunity to intervene in the Alzheimer's disease continuum," Carrillo said.
While there is no current cure for Alzheimer's disease, Carrillo explains that early intervention can better manage the disease and potentially slow its progression. The goal is to help someone function independently for as long as possible while maintaining a good quality of life.
Real Consequences Affecting Family and Finances
The consequences of longevity and real and affect family and finances. Being proactive is essential to ensure the choice of quality care services while protecting income, assets, lifestyle, and legacy.
There is little a family can do once there is a health problem. However, planning before your health declines will better manage the consequences of dementia and declining health.
Aging will happen. The consequences are real. One way to prepare is with affordable Long-Term Care Insurance. Many American families have added LTC Insurance to safeguard assets, access quality care, and reduce the stress and anxiety otherwise placed on family members.
There are many available options that will fit your budget and needs. Higher-income people often focus on unlimited long-term care benefits that only a few insurance companies offer. However, you can design a plan that will effectively provide the benefits most people will need as they get older.
Get Expert Help in Planning
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.
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. 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.
You can't live your life in fear but being prepared for increased lifespans and the natural decline in our health, body, and mind will ease the stress on everyone in your family. Most people obtain Long-Term Care Insurance in their 50s.
About the Author
Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.
Contributor since October 31st, 2017
The reality of getting older is declining health. Sometimes this decline is slow and gradual. Other times it happens quickly, like from the result of a stroke or other dramatic event. No matter, the changes in health, body, and mind mean an increased risk of needing help with daily living activities - even a higher chance of dementia.
The consequences are real and affect families and finances. Being prepared will make aging easier for your entire family. Professional caregivers are expensive, and the cost of both in-home care and long-term care facilities is rising at an alarming pace. Family caregivers find it very difficult to balance their lives with that of a caregiver.
The solution is affordable Long-Term Care Insurance. When you own an LTC policy, you own a solution that gives you access to the quality care you deserve - either at home or in a quality facility. Your loved ones can concentrate on being supportive instead of being caregivers.
You cannot wait until you have a stroke or experience declining health to obtain coverage. Long-Term Care Insurance is medically underwritten, so it is easier and less expensive to address the problem when you are younger and still enjoy reasonably good health.
Most people obtain their coverage in their 50s, some even younger.
Seek Professional Guidance
Planning for future long-term health care is too important to leave to an untrained insurance agent or financial advisor. You need a skilled and experienced specialist to guide you through the many options and differences between insurance companies. A qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will be best able to help you and your family.
Insurance rates are regulated, so no insurance agent, agency, or financial advisor can give you special deals. However, insurance companies' premiums vary over 100% for the same coverage, and underwriting criteria vary between insurance companies.
A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will work with the top companies so they can match your age, health, family history, and other factors and find you the best coverage at the best value. 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.
Finding Quality Care for Mom or Dad
Start by reading our four guides -
- Finding Quality In-Home Care | LTC News
- Adult Day Care Centers (ADCCs) | LTC News
- Assisted Living and Memory Care Facilities | LTC News
- Finding a Quality Nursing Home | LTC News
If they are 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
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.
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, 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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