The possibility of confronting cognitive disease late in life is motivating many clients and prospects to ask about long term care policies, notes Nancy Morith, president, N.P. Morith Inc., Princeton, N.J., an LTC agency.

“What drives people to buy more than anything is fear of Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” Morith says. “They want to find some way to live out their lives with dignity and grace.”

The unfortunate truth is, while medicine has learned to keep the body healthy longer, it hasn’t yet figured out how to keep the brain working, once it shows signs of failing. According to the Madison Institute, Madison, Wis., the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease–a major cause of dementia in the elderly–increases from about 3% of people aged 65 to 74 to 40% of those 85 and older.

So, increasing longevity goes hand in hand with a steady rise in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, LTC experts point out.

But while cognitive diseases may motivate many consumers to buy LTC insurance, those disorders also are pushing up its cost, one carrier’s top executive points out.

“The amount of dollars our health care system is investing in caring for Alzheimer’s is going to grow exponentially,” says Buck Stinson, president of the LTC insurance unit of Genworth Financial Inc., Richmond, Va. “Half of the claims we get today are specifically associated with Alzheimer’s.”

Finding a cure, he says, “could significantly cut the cost of long term care for everyone.” It also could dramatically reduce the cost of health care overall in the U.S., he adds.

For that reason, Genworth has committed itself to contribute $7.5 million to the Alzheimer’s Association, Chicago, over the next 5 years, Stinson says.

Genworth agents also have been at work in their own communities, raising a total of more than $3 million over the past five years to support the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Memory Walk, according to Stinson. The walk provides funds to boost Alzheimer’s support services.

In addition to supporting medical research, the association will use the funds to help increase awareness of the disease and provide information for caregivers and families about support options, according to Larry Varnes, chairman of the association’s board.

“Alzheimer’s disease is the single greatest threat to 77 million baby boomers and is also one of their greatest fears about aging,” says Varnes.

This article originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of LTC e-Wire, an online publication of National Underwriter Life & Health. You can subscribe to this e-newsletter for free by going to www.lifeandhealthinsurancenews.com.

Fear of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases is motivating clients to buy LTC insurance