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Planning for Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted on: April 25th, 2017
The Community Link, a newspaper serving eastern Ventura County, published "Planning For Alzheimer's Disease," in the April 2017 issue. The article is published in its entirety below, or see The Community Link, page 6. 

Planning For Early Alzheimer's

By Terri Hilliard 

It is estimated that some 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease and that number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050.  Every 66 seconds, someone in this country will develop the disease, which is a progressive brain disorder that can have overwhelming physical, emotional and financial implications for today’s families. 

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States; more deadly than breast and prostate cancers combined.  As our population ages, the prevalence of the disease rises—doubling every five years after age 65, according to the National Institute on Aging. In fact, some 30 percent of seniors will die of Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia.

Since 2000, deaths from heart disease nationally have decreased by 14 percent, while those dying of Alzheimer’s have increased by 89 percent.  In California, those dying of Alzheimer’s since 2000 have risen 186 percent, making it the fifth leading cause of death in the state. 

And this is only part of the story.  The effects of Alzheimer’s on the patients are devastating, but the caregivers suffer significantly, as well.  It is estimated that 15 million American’s provide unpaid care for people with some form of dementia.  Last year alone, caregivers provided some 18.2 billion hours of their time, which is valued at $1.1 trillion. 

Worse yet, about 35 percent of caregivers for dementia patients say their own health has suffered due to their responsibilities for taking care of the ill. The toll on those charged with helping others is substantial on many fronts.

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of the disease cases. Alzheimer’s causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.  Learning, judgment, communication, and carrying out daily activities are all imperiled and will get worse as brain functions decline. 

There is no cure; however, early detection and proper medical intervention are crucial in slowing the progression of the disease.  It is estimated that one to four family members will serve as caregivers for each person with Alzheimer's, so early planning, as well, is critical.

Considering the ever-increasing numbers of those with Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia, the odds are overwhelmingly against you that you or someone you love will need extended care at some time in their loves.  At the very least, your estate planning needs to address these issues:
·       Long-term care expenses,
·       Estimated care cost and asset protection,
·       Associated legal documents, including medical directives,
·       Exploration of available community resources, and
·       Counselling, guidance and disease education to help manage the disease stages.

Because of the significant impact of Alzheimer’s, a number of my associates and I are forming a new program called the Ventura County Alzheimer’s Initiative. Santa Barbara County has a robust chapter already in place and doing good things, so we are now branching out to Ventura County.  It is essential that we raise awareness and funds to foster early diagnosis and, hopefully, find an eventual cure. 

If you or someone you know – caregiver or patient – is interested in learning more and helping combat this devastating illness in our own backyard, contact Katelyn Reeves at the Alzheimer organization. She can be reached by e-mail at kreeves@alz.org or by telephone at 805-390-2789.

If you would like to learn more about planning for elder care, including Alzheimer’s, let’s discuss your options and necessary plans to protect you and yours.  Give us a call 805-201-2552 or e-mail thilliard@terrihilliard.com.  
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