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The True Cost of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s.

What comes to your mind when you hear that word?

To a lucky few, it’s just a word. But to others, just the word alone is enough to stir up some deep emotions.

Many of us can envision and even accept losing our health as we get older; that’s usually a fact of life. But how does one really grasp losing one’s mind? One’s personality? What could be more devastating than losing the very essence of what makes you… YOU? Or even worse, watching a loved one go through it?

Alzheimer’s is frightening. Insidious. Heartbreaking. We probably all know someone affected by it, either directly or indirectly. There is no cure. And as the Alzheimer’s Association so succinctly puts it, “Everyone with a brain is at risk for Alzheimer’s”.

What may be even worse is that Alzheimer’s is becoming more and more common. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, and the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured. In 2014, 15.7 million family members and friends provided 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, at an economic value of over $217 billion. An estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s in 2015, and almost two thirds of those are women. And by 2050, the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple – for an estimated annual cost to the nation of $1.1 TRILLION. (1)

What is the TRUE cost of Alzheimer’s, and can it really be measured? Certainly the most common way we can try to measure it is in dollars and cents, but I don’t believe that is really doing it justice; I don’t believe it’s really that straightforward. I think maybe we should measure its impact in sleepless nights, or in gray hairs. Maybe we can measure it in hours of work missed, or plans cancelled. Or maybe we can measure it in the tears of patients’ loved ones. Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that doesn’t just take its toll on the person who has it, but on every single person who loves them. What could be worse?

Unfortunately there is no cure, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

Long-Term Care (LTC) insurance can be an invaluable piece of the retirement puzzle for your clients who have concerns about Alzheimer’s, dementia, or any other debilitating chronic illness that would otherwise put crushing financial and emotional strains on both them and their families. It’s up to us to educate our clients about the myriad of LTC and chronic illness options that exist out there – from traditional LTC policies and linked Life/LTC hybrid contracts, to chronic illness riders on life insurance and annuities, there is no shortage of these features available. The burden rests on our shoulders to make sure our clients and their families never have to go through these types of situations alone. Having LTC coverage can be a measure of comfort in an otherwise frustrating and painful time; essentially one of the darkest times a family can endure.

 

Author’s note: I drew inspiration for this post from an article penned by Emily Holbrook in the February edition of National Underwriter. (You can find her article here.) Her closing line sums up this discussion better than I could.

“It’s up to all of us in the industry to educate those around us about the importance of LTCI. It’s the only saving grace many families in these situations have.”

 

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