It’s the illness people say they fear the most: Alzheimer’s disease. That fear is well-founded, since today over 5 million Americans – and many times more family members and loved ones – are wrestling with the devastation caused by this insidious, unpredictable ailment. Caregivers agree that of all the afflictions they have to deal with, Alzheimer’s disease and other similar forms of dementia are by far the most difficult, emotionally, physically and financially.
Because the topic comes up so frequently on our AgingOptions radio broadcast and in our LifePlanning Seminars, any article about dementia catches our eye, so we were drawn to this very recent feature on the Fox Business News website. It describes in vivid numerical terms just how devastating and deadly Alzheimer’s is, and it provides a brief overview of current clinical trials being conducted by two well-known pharmaceutical giants as they race to find a cure.
First, let’s consider the bad news: Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, says the Alzheimer’s Association. (The Association’s website, www.alz.org, has a wealth of information about the disease.) While Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are generally associated with age, it’s not “a normal part of aging,” and the majority of aging adults will never experience it. Still, there are presently some 5.4 million Alzheimer’s disease sufferers in the U.S. of whom all but a handful (about 200,000) are age 65 or older. That’s roughly 10 percent of all U.S. seniors. In 2017, the cost of treating and caring for those with dementia will approach $260 billion.
Dementia plays havoc with loved ones. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that at least 15 million Americans are now engaged in caring for people with dementia, providing a staggering 18 billion hours of care annually. At least a third of these caregivers say that the task of caring for someone they love with dementia has damaged their own health, and we know it also damages their ability to earn a living and prepare for their own retirement. As we said above, the impact of Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia is truly devastating.
According to Fox Business News, the death rate from Alzheimer’s disease has soared over the past 18 years. The National Vital Statistics System reported that Alzheimer’s took the lives of nearly 94,000 Americans in 2014, which means the death rate per 100,000 people today is about 55 percent higher than in 1999. The Alzheimer’s Association website provides some perspective: since 2000 the number of deaths from heart disease has dropped by 14 percent, while the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s has shot up by 89 percent. No matter how you calculate it, the impact is bad and getting worse. Estimates project that the number of diagnosed Alzheimer’s cases could rise from just over 5 million today to 16 million by 2050.
With all that as the backdrop, the quest for a cure takes on new urgency – but true success remains elusive, says Fox Business News. The article cites two clinical trials currently underway, being conducted on separate drugs by two giants in the pharmaceutical industry, Merck and Eli Lilly. Merck is evaluating a pill to be taken once per day that is supposed to reduce the formation of plaques, or deposits, in the brain, which have been connected to cognitive impairment in dementia patients. Merck is also involved in another study of a different drug, still in the preclinical phase. But Alzheimer’s research is extremely complicated with results that are often disappointing: another experimental drug produced by rival firm Eli Lilly, one whose effectiveness had been highly anticipated, recently failed in a clinical trial, Fox Business news reports. The drug was supposed to slow the rate of decline in thinking skills and memory, but failed to achieve stated goals. Far from giving up, the Lilly company claims to have at least eight other compounds in various states of evaluation. (For more information on the status of current research as reported by the Alzheimer’s Association, click on this link.)
Two things are certain from everything we read about Alzheimer’s disease. First, the problem of dementia is going to get worse before it gets better, afflicting millions more people – those with dementia and those caring for them – before a cure is found. Second, having a solid care plan as part of a far-reaching retirement strategy is absolutely essential. Even though Alzheimer’s directly affects a minority of seniors, our longer life spans mean that more and more seniors will be touched to some degree by the effects of cognitive impairment as they age. Caregivers and loved ones need to plan ahead so the family’s assets, not to mention their own sanity, can be protected.
Whether you are presently affected by dementia or not, we urge you to start being proactive about all the issues related to retirement. The best place to begin is by attending a free AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar. In just a few short hours, we’ll cover a wide range of essential information you must have in order to protect your assets, avoid becoming a burden to your loved ones, and escape the trap of being placed in a nursing home against your wishes. These popular seminars show you how every facet of retirement – financial, legal, housing, medical and family – can blend together into one seamless, interdependent plan: an AgingOptions LifePlan.
Please take the time to find out more. There’s no obligation whatsoever – and the peace of mind you’ll discover will be priceless. For dates, times and online registration, click here for our Upcoming Events page, or call us during the week. We’ll look forward to meeting you soon at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar near you.
(originally reported at www.foxbusiness.com)