Understanding the Fear of Alzheimer's and Other Dementias - Ways to Delay or Prevent Memory Problems

The fear of Alzheimer's and other dementias looms large for many. Proactive measures like regular physical activity, a balanced diet, cognitive stimulation, and adequate sleep can help delay or even prevent the onset of these memory problems. Being prepared will make it easier for you and your family.

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Understanding the Fear of Alzheimer's and Other Dementias - Ways to Delay or Prevent Memory Problems
6 Min Read September 7th, 2023

Have you considered your risk of dementia as you have gotten older? If so, you are not alone. The fear of Alzheimer's and other dementias is a real one. These diseases can have a devastating impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole. 

Many of us ask if we will ever suffer from diminished memory and if there are ways to delay or avoid dementia as part of our aging process. Experts tell us there are healthy steps you can take to reduce your risk or possibly prevent it. We will discuss these ways in a moment.

September is World Alzheimer's Month, a time to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. These conditions are a significant public health concern, affecting millions worldwide. More importantly, dementia may happen to someone you love or yourself in the years ahead. 

Millions Impacted Directly, and Many More Indirectly 

Since millions of people worldwide are impacted by dementia of any kind, the number of caregivers who support them is staggering. According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 50 million people are living with dementia worldwide, and this is expected to double by 2030. 

In the United States alone, an estimated 6 million people are living with Alzheimer's disease, and over 11 million unpaid caregivers provide care for them. 

Then there are the paid caregivers who provide care since so many adult children cannot quit their jobs and become caregivers for an older parent. An estimated 2.4 million professional caregivers in the United States provide care for people with dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the total cost of caring for people with dementia in the United States was estimated to be $355 billion in 2022. The number of professional caregivers is expected to grow in the coming years as the number of people with dementia increases. 

Most of the cost of professional caregivers comes from the care recipient's income and assets or Long-Term Care Insurance unless the individual has qualified for Medicaid. Medicaid pays for long-term care, including dementia supervision, if an individual has little or no income and assets. 

The majority of unpaid caregivers are family members, often spouses, adult children, or siblings. They provide a wide range of care, from basic tasks such as bathing and dressing to more complex tasks such as managing medications and providing emotional support. Caregiving is a challenging and demanding role, significantly impacting the caregiver's physical and emotional health.

What Is Alzheimer's and Dementia?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases. It is a progressive brain disorder that causes memory loss, thinking, and behavior problems. There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms.

Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Vascular dementia is caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain. Lewy body dementia is caused by the buildup of abnormal protein deposits in the brain. Frontotemporal dementia is caused by the degeneration of certain brain cells.

The early symptoms of Alzheimer's and other dementias can be subtle and may go unnoticed at first. Some common early symptoms include:

  • Difficulty remembering recent events
  • Problems with word-finding
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Problems with judgment or decision-making

Healthline reminds us that having memory problems alone doesn’t mean you have dementia. The website reviews many of the warning signs you should be aware of as you see your loved ones get older Dementia Symptoms: 11 Early Signs to Watch Out For (healthline.com). You need to have at least two types of impairments that significantly interfere with your everyday life to be diagnosed with dementia.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is vital to see a doctor for evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the disease's progression and improve quality of life.

No Cure - But You Might Be Able to Delay or Prevent

Jessica Caldwell, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist with Cleveland Clinic, said the first tip to delay or prevent dementia is to exercise. Jessica Caldwell, PhD

The reason exercise is so important is exercise multitasks. First and foremost, when you exercise, a chemical is released in your brain immediately and over the long term that supports your memory system in the brain.

Dr. Caldwell notes that exercise not only facilitates the development of new neural connections, enhancing our capacity to acquire new knowledge, but it also plays a pivotal role in diminishing stress hormones and body inflammation. Chronic presence of these elements can be detrimental to one's memory and increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

What types of exercises are most beneficial to reduce your dementia risk, and for what duration? According to Dr. Caldwell, engaging in moderate-intensity activities such as brisk walking for a total of 150 minutes each week is advisable. Additionally, she underscores the importance of adequate sleep in preventing Alzheimer's disease. Aiming for a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep each night is crucial. Falling short in sleep duration can adversely affect your memory retention the following day.

The other reason is much more directly related to Alzheimer's disease, and that is when we sleep, during certain stages of our sleep and not others, our brain actually clears debris. One of the types of debris our brain clears is amyloid, and amyloid is a protein that builds up in unhelpful and pathological ways when it comes to Alzheimer's disease.

Diet and Dementia

Caldwell's third tip is to consider adopting a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on eating healthy fats, more leafy greens, and whole foods. Research has shown this type of diet is good for your brain and heart health.

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating pattern originating in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is characterized by a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds; a moderate intake of fish, poultry, and eggs; and a low intake of red meat, processed foods, and sweets.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to have many health benefits, including:

  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia: The Mediterranean diet helps to protect the brain from damage, which can help reduce the risk of these neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease: The Mediterranean diet helps lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation, both risk factors for heart disease.
  • Reduced risk of stroke: The Mediterranean diet helps lower blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke.
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes: The Mediterranean diet helps to control blood sugar levels, which can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Increased lifespan: Studies have shown that people who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to live longer than those who do not.

Food on a table.

There are several key components of the Mediterranean diet, including:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, such as apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, broccoli, and spinach.
  • Whole grains: Choose whole grains over refined grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread.
  • Legumes: Eat legumes, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas, several times a week.
  • Nuts and seeds: Eat nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds, as snacks or add them to meals.
  • Fish: Eat fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, at least twice a week.
  • Olive oil: Use olive oil as your primary source of fat.
  • Dairy: Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products like yogurt and cheese.
  • Red meat: Limit your intake of red meat to no more than 4 ounces per week.
  • Processed foods: Avoid processed foods, such as sugary drinks, pastries, and fast food.
  • Sweets: Limit your intake of sweets to no more than a few times per week.

Are You Prepared for Aging and its Consequences?

Aging, a natural progression of life, comes with various challenges that can profoundly affect our families and finances. One of the most daunting concerns related to aging is the potential onset of cognitive disorders, including dementia. 

Such conditions compromise independence and quality of life and place significant emotional and financial burdens on families. Without proper planning, families often face the distressing decision of juggling their work and personal lives with the demands of caregiving or managing the high out-of-pocket costs of professional long-term care.

Yes, taking proactive action to reduce your risk of dementia and other chronic illnesses that increase the need for long-term care is important. However, aging still happens, and the consequences on your family and finances will be substantial. 

Adding a Long-Term Care Insurance policy to a comprehensive retirement plan offers a proactive solution to these challenges. This insurance provides the financial resources needed for quality care in various settings – from in-home care to assisted living facilities – and ensures that the care recipient gets the necessary support without depleting their savings or placing undue financial stress on their loved ones. By safeguarding against the high costs of care, you can ensure that your estate, accumulated over a lifetime, is preserved for your lifestyle, future generations, or other intended purposes.

By integrating Long-Term Care Insurance into your retirement planning, you offer your family the invaluable gift of time and peace of mind, ensuring that the challenges of aging are met with dignity, love, and financial security. 

Don't forget planning should happen before your health changes. Most people start planning in their 40s or 50s, but it is your fairly good health now that allows you the ability to plan, even if you are in your 60s and beyond.

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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

Family caregivers are stressed physically and emotionally and are not trained to provide the quality care that a loved one usually needs, including dementia care. 

The goal is to safeguard your income and assets from the future costs and related burdens of long-term health care. You want to give your family the time to be family. You want to ensure you have your choice of quality care, including in-home care. According to almost every survey, you don't want to be a burden on those you love. 

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance is the solution. However, don't delay; obtaining coverage in your 40s or 50s is ideal for saving money and ensuring you have the most available choices. 

Find Professional Assistance in Obtaining Your LTC Policy

Seeking professional help is vital when shopping for Long-Term Care Insurance. Few Long-Term Care Insurance specialists work with top-rated insurance companies and completely understand underwriting, policy design, pricing, claims, partnership, and other essential aspects of LTC Insurance. 

These skills will allow them to provide you with free and accurate quotes from all the major insurance companies that offer long-term care products

Look for some of these factors in finding an LTC Insurance specialist:

  • An LTC Specialist will usually have helped at least 100 people or more with LTC Insurance. Be sure to ask; some specialists have helped thousands nationwide.
  • An LTC Specialist will typically work with most of the major insurance companies offering these products, not just one or two.
  • An LTC Specialist typically has years or more of experience and holds a Certified in Long-Term Care® designation (CLTC®).
  • An LTC Specialist will understand the current and future cost of long-term health care and how most care is delivered so they can make professional recommendations without "over-insuring" the individual. 
  • An LTC Specialist will offer all types of long-term care solutions, including traditional (including Partnership plans), asset-based "hybrid" policies, and short-term cash indemnity policies. 
  • An LTC Specialist will understand the underwriting rules of all the major insurance companies so they can match your age, health, family history, and other factors to provide you with accurate quotes.
  • An LTC Specialist will typically have firsthand experience helping a client's family in the claim process.

Mom and Dad Deserves Quality Care - How Can You Help?

If your parents exhibit declining health or dementia, they deserve quality care. If they have a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, consider them lucky. Be sure to use the benefits from the LTC policy without delay.

LTC NEWS has combined efforts with Amada Senior Care, a leading in-home health care agency with locations throughout the country, to help you process a claim from any LTC Insurance policy.

There is no cost or obligation for this service - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

If they don't have an LTC policy, Amada can still help develop a plan of care and provide you with many affordable in-home care options. Learn more now - Find Quality In-Home Care.

These four LTC NEWS guides will assist you in trying to find appropriate long-term health care services for a loved one:

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In summary, sponsored content on LTC NEWS is a powerful marketing tool that can help you boost website traffic, SEO, brand recognition, and audience engagement.

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

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If your group, organization, business, or political committee has news to share, we encourage you to submit a press release to us.

You can submit your press release - newsroom@ltcnews.com 

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