In the month of November for Thanksgiving, Americans of all ages gather to celebrate family, togetherness, and happy memories. While there is much for which to be grateful, holidays can be especially difficult for those whose minds are fading faster than they should or for those families and caregivers who provide daily care to loved ones who have lost independence due to Alzheimer’s disease. The month of November is also National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.
Americans aged 65 or older are the fastest growing population in the country. Because of the increasing number of senior Americans, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is projected to soar. The disease not only physically taxes caregivers, but also poses significant financial health care costs to the nation. According to the National Alzheimer’s Association,
- 1 in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
- 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the nation, outranking breast cancer and prostate cancer.
- Every 66 seconds one more American develops the disease; by 2050, that statistic will change to every 33 seconds.
- Annually, more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementias.
- In 2016, caregivers provided roughly 18.2 billion hours of care, valued at over $230 billion, to Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.
- In 2017, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $259 billion. By the year 2050, these costs are estimated to rise to $1.1 trillion.
As Americans join hands around the table this year at Thanksgiving, celebrate the past memories with loved ones, cherish your shared presence together, and look for any early signs of Alzheimer’s. These early signs might present as memory loss, confusion with time or place, or difficulty completing familiar tasks.
If you notice a loved one is showing early symptoms of the disease, ensure that the loved one has taken action to pro-actively protect all legal and healthcare needs. Serving families affected by Alzheimer’s is a large aspect of what elder law attorneys do. With enough time to pre-plan, many elder law attorneys can assist families with planning documents, protect assets for a spouse without Alzheimer’s, assist in obtaining Veteran’s benefits and other assistance, or navigate the options for placement in care facilities. Without proactive legal planning, if a loved one’s condition progresses to the point where they are no longer able to make decisions for their care or manage their affairs, often the only remaining option is an expensive and public guardianship proceeding.
The best way to prevent Alzheimer’s from becoming a greater burden on families is to proactively plan for a loved one’s legal and health care needs. Consult an elder law attorney about available options for your loved one’s specific needs.