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LTCI Watch: Young, with Alzheimer's

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About 250,00 of the people in the United States who suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are under the age of 65.

Researchers at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) think tank, talk about that group of people in a report on “specific populations.”

The ASPE researchers prepared that report because the federal law that created the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease requires HHS to come up with plans for helping “specific populations disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease.”

One of those groups is people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, and another is member of racial and ethnic minority groups that suffer high rates of dementia.

It seems as if government programs and general health finance programs may be in the best position to help people in those groups.

But people affected by “early-onset dementia” are potentially part of the bread-and-butter private disability insurance and private long-term care insurance (LTCI) markets.

Some are still able-bodied and are hard at work. Some beloved readers scoffed a few weeks ago when HHS began advertising for nominees for a seat on the HHS Alzheimer’s panel that would be filled by someone who already has Alzheimer’s.

But, if you ever watch the live video webcasts of the Alzheimer’s panel, you’ll see that some of the most interesting, most articulate witnesses are middle-aged professionals who have been told that they are starting to suffer from dementia.

Of course, right now, the main topic of thought in the private (and, to be fair, the public) LTCI markets is that the sky has fallen and we can’t get up, and we should just go in a cave and play Minecraft until a meteor wipes us out, but, if we ever get past that stage, maybe it would be good if disability insurers, critical illness insurers, private LTCI carriers and employers could get together and figure out stay-at-work programs and benefits prrograms that could help people with early-onset dementia keep working and maintain productivity as long as possible.

Example: What if the real obstacle for some people with early-onset dementia who want to keep working is crabbiness, and an inability to handle inter-office politics?

Maybe it would be a lot cheaper, in the long run, to simply find ways for employers to shield workers with early-onset dementia from sources of irritation than to have them quit working two or three years early simply because they’ve lost some of their ability to sweat the small stuff.

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