SPONSORED — It is estimated that every American family has been touched by Alzheimer’s, but for many across the country, Alzheimer’s is an everyday reality, complete with taxing physical limitations, harrowing emotional effects and sometimes catastrophic financial impact.
For anyone looking to protect themselves — and their loved ones — throughout the aging process, there are a few important things to know about Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s impacts every family member involved.
Deaths are on the rise
If you considered Alzheimer’s simply a memory problem, think again. The disease can have catastrophic physical effects on its sufferers.
According to WebMD, these include stiff muscles, loss of balance and coordination, weakness, loss of control of bladder and bowels, seizures or twitches. Essentially, Alzheimer’s disease affects almost every day-to-day activity, from recalling a relative’s name, to using the bathroom, to buttoning up a shirt. While the severity of symptoms ranges between patients, one thing is certain: symptoms will worsen. That’s because Alzheimer’s is not simply a “condition,” it is a disease that causes death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s deaths are on the rise. In fact, in the 15 years spanning 1999 to 2014, death rates from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 55 percent, making it the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Rajiv Nagaich, attorney and counselor-at-law for Aging Options, believes these numbers speak to much more than mortality.
“It’s not death that bothers people about Alzheimer’s,” Nagaich said. “It’s the horrendous number of years you have to deal with incapacity. This just shows that more people are getting impacted by Alzheimer’s than previously thought.”
Today, those numbers are alarming. More than 5 million Americans – and many times more family members and loved ones – are wrestling with the devastation caused by Alzheimer’s, according to a recent Aging Options blog.
The problem will get worse before it gets better
With Alzheimer’s cases — and related deaths — on the rise, thousands of caretakers find themselves in difficult positions — both emotionally and financially. According to Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently five FDA-approved drugs in use for the disease. However, these medications work to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but do not treat the underlying causes of the disease. Although research is ongoing and other drugs are currently in development, Alzheimer’s sufferers — and their family members — are left with a frightening reality: This is a disease without a cure.
That means millions more people across the country (and the world) will suffer from Alzheimer’s in their lifetime or become a caretaker for someone who is. With this knowledge, life planning takes on a significant new importance.
Careful planning is key
Aging brings with it a wealth of responsibilities. When you suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, those responsibilities could be beyond your control — or ability. That’s why Aging Options, an invaluable resource for seniors and their loved ones, urges early planning.
That planning requires taking several aspects of care into consideration, including health, housing, legal issues and finances.
“The person who is dealing with the illness will probably have the hope that they won’t ever end up in the nursing home without running out of money or becoming a burden on their loved ones,” Nagaich explained. “Then there are the family members dealing with the disease. They care about their loved one’s quality of life, and wonder how they can care for them without losing their sanity or their financial stability in the process.”
Nagaich suggests starting with a long-term care plan. Contacting a life planner (different than a financial planner) can help you get started dealing with all the nuances this disease brings along with it. For example, while you may qualify for benefits through Medicare, Medicaid or the VA, you need to legally plan differently to be able to access these benefits.
“People need to start as soon as they get a diagnosis,” said Nagaich. “They need a professional who is well-versed with multiple disciplines – health, housing, financial, legal – a life planner.”