By Doug Dahmer
Special to the Financial Independence Hub
“Alzheimer’s disease – the degenerative brain condition that is not content to simply kill its victims, it must first snuff out their essence.” – Time Magazine, October 31, 2010
By age 85, an individual has a 50% chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a matter of a flipping a coin. Chances are if you don’t have Alzheimer’s, you will be caring for someone who does.
The Grim Statistics about Dementia
• The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is reaching epidemic proportions. Today, 500,000 Canadians have the disease or a related dementia.
• Alzheimer’s disease is considered the second most feared disease of aging.
• While 1: 11 people 65 years of age and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, 71,000 Canadians < 65 have the disease.
• It is estimated that one person is diagnosed every five minutes and it is projected that by 2035, 1.1 million Canadians will be living with Alzheimer’ or a related dementia.
• Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death, after heart disease, cancer, stroke, CLRD, and accidents. Death rates from heart disease, stroke and HIV have declined but with Alzheimer’s, it has increased 66%.
• Women represent 72% of all cases of the disease.
• Alzheimer’s disease places tremendous pressure on families, especially women. The hours of care delivered by unpaid family members are expected to more than triple from 231 million hours in 2008 to 756 million hours by 2038
• Dementia costs Canadians $15 billion/year. By 2038 this number is expected to grow 10 times to $153 billion
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of a large group of disorders know as the ‘dementias.’ It is an irreversible, progressive degeneration of brain cells that causes thinking ability and memory to deteriorate. The disease also affects behavior, mood and emotions and the ability to perform activities of daily living.
The cause is unknown, although there are risk factors that have been identified that may play a role in the development of the disease. There is presently no cure and no known intervention or treatment that will prevent or delay the onset or progression of the disease.
Once diagnosed, an individual progresses slowly through different stages until the final stages of life, usually seven to ten years after the initial diagnosis. Symptoms vary among individuals, as different areas of the brain are targeted by the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease causes you to lose your identity
In a recent Larry King Special on CNN entitled ‘Unthinkable: The Alzheimer’s Epidemic’, actress Angie Dickinson, who cared for her mother as she suffered with the condition, said: “It robs you of your life because you don’t know who you are or where you are and you can no longer comprehend what is going on around you.” You become a helpless child again. Caregivers are faced with trying to balance career, children, marriage and the taxing, 24/7 responsibility of caring for a loved one with the disease.
Given the horrendous statistics that Canadians face with regard to this degenerative disease, have you considered how this diagnosis would impact you, your future and your loved ones? What steps have you taken to protect yourself and your family? Statistics show that there is a very real possibility of becoming a caregiver for someone you love with this disease. Would you be able to cope? Do you have the time and the resources to provide the constant care required?
Unfortunately, the burden of health care is shifting to the individual and care for a person with Alzheimer’s can quickly erode a lifetime of savings. One of the ways to alleviate the stress on your or family members is to consider investing in Long Term Care Insurance. It funds the care – quality care – where you want it, when you want and without impacting your savings or assets, all the while easing the anxiety of caring for someone with the disease. It provides choice, freedom, control, flexibility and protection.
Understanding this complex condition and the challenges it presents is critical especially as the population of Canada ages and baby boomers reach age 60. To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and the 10 warning signs, risk factors and steps you can take to determine or reduce your risk for developing the disease, visit Alzheimer’s Association and check out their Brain Tour.
Doug Dahmer is CEO and founder of Emeritus Retirement Income Specialists, based in Burlington, Ont.