The Dementia Disaster
For Ken Burns' 2016 documentary on cancer, he chose a title very similar to a 2011 book by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Burns' film, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, speaks to the fear a cancer diagnosis strikes in the hearts of all.
If cancer is the emperor, what is dementia? Whatever simile comes to mind, I think we can all agree that dementia is a disaster... emotionally, and often financially, not only for the patient but also for everyone who loves them and for society at large.
Awareness of the increasing frequency of dementia and its immense cost to individuals and society is growing. As awareness grows, stigma diminishes, and communities are becoming mobilized.
World Alzheimer's Day (September 21st) was launched in 1994, and World Alzheimer's Month started in September 2011-symbols of an international campaign to raise dementia awareness and challenge stigma.
The World Alzheimer's Month website (www.worldalzmonth.org) states that, among the elderly, dementia is the leading cause of disability and dependency. Dementia is NOT synonymous with Alzheimer's disease; rather, the term is used to describe the 100+ progressive brain syndromes that affect memory, thinking, behavior and emotion.
Alzheimer's disease is the most well-known form of dementia, accounting for 50-60% of all cases. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto temporal dementia.
Symptoms may include:
difficulty in finding the right words or in understanding what people are saying
previously routine tasks become difficult to perform
personality and mood changes
I am just now digging into a 90-page report with no fewer than 583 endnotes published by the Alzheimer's Association. Here are some excerpts from 2019 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures* that I think you will find interesting:
1. A small percentage of Alzheimer's cases (an estimated 1 percent or less) develop as a result of mutations to any of three specific genes. (p. 11)
2. Brain health is affected by the health of the heart and blood vessels. Although it makes up just 2 percent of body weight, the brain consumes 20 percent of the body's oxygen and energy supplies. (p. 76) A healthy heart ensures that enough blood is pumped to the brain, while healthy blood vessels enable the oxygen- and nutrient- rich blood to reach the brain so it can function normally. (p. 13)
3. Out of the total U.S. population: One in 10 people (10 percent) age 65 and older has Alzheimer's dementia. The percentage of people with Alzheimer's dementia increases with age: 3 percent of people age 65-74, 17 percent of people age 75-84, and 32 percent of people age 85 and older have Alzheimer's dementia. (p. 17)
4. Data from the Framingham Heart Study tells us that the estimated lifetime risk for Alzheimer's dementia at age 45 was approximately one in five (20 percent) for women and one in 10 (10 percent) for men. (p. 19)
Cancer may reign as the emperor of maladies, but dementia (and Alzheimer's) is certainly another member of the emperor's court. Both cancer and dementia can perhaps best be described as despotic rulers that strike terror in their kingdoms. And while modern medicine has come up with astounding treatments and even cures for many cancers which were once a death sentence, the same is not true for dementia.
In fact, the longer one lives, the more likely one is to develop dementia - making age a primary risk factor!
So, dear reader, if you are planning on a long life, part of that plan should include contingencies for the long-term care which will likely be needed one day. Whether the cause is dementia or another disease or injury, it's clear that in every country, many monarchs and citizens alike will suffer from dementia.
In this country, the best protection against the dementia disaster is a solid long term care plan, and-almost always-that plan should include long term care insurance. It's a royal idea.
Brigitte Bromberg, MS, CFP®, CSA® is an independent insurance specialist who provides unbiased, consultative, solutions for long term care, life and disability insurance needs.
For more than 30 years Brigitte has worked diligently to provide clients the information and insight they need to make informed insurance decisions. President of Winning Strategies Group LLC, Brigitte loves speaking to groups, and she also loves helping people implement creative, smart insurance strategies.