More than 5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a 10 percent increase from five years ago, according to a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association. This number includes 4.9 million people over the age of 65 and between 200,000 and 500,000 people under age 65 with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
The report confirms the beginning of the long-forecast dementia epidemic. With 78 million baby boomers entering or approaching their 60s, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s every 72 seconds. By mid-century, unless scientists discover a way to cure or delay the disease, someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds, the Association says.
The escalation in reported cases is in large part due to success in fighting other illnesses like heart disease and cancer. “We’re keeping people alive so they can live long enough to get Alzheimer’s disease,” explained association vice president Steve McConnell.
But those living long enough to get cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s are not covered by Medicare for their long-term care costs. Victims who require care must rely on family members, long-term care insurance (if they were able to purchase it before getting sick), or Medi-Cal.
The report comes as Congress is considering more funding for research into Alzheimer’s and more help for family caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association report was released at a hearing chaired by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) who, along with Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), has introduce The Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act of 2007 (S. 898), which doubles funding for Alzheimer’s research, and The Family Assistance Act of 2007 (S. 897), which creates a $3,000 tax credit for families caring for a loved one with a chronic condition like Alzheimer’s to help them pay for prescription drugs, home health care and special day care.
If you or a family member have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (or have a family history of Alzheimer’s) it is important to seek legal guidance and develop an appropriate financial plan as early as possible. Estate planing documents should be prepared to name an agent (typically a family member) to manage your finances and make health care decisions for you in the event you are mentally incapacitated. If you already have estate planning documents, they should be reviewed for “Government Benefits Planning Language” that would enable your family to qualify you or your family member for appropriate benefits if the need ever arose.
Author: Sean Ethington