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A father's mind

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Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. Sure, there is rarely physical pain involved, but the emotional pain of all involved is enough to bring a family to its knees, overcome with feelings of helplessness. No one should ever have to watch their father, their grandmother, aunt, friend, or anyone close to them become a shell of a human, a lifeless face and thoughtless mind. 

Just a few days ago, I watched my father-in-law, now a little more than two years into his Alzheimer’s haze, wander around his home aimlessly, constantly picking up and putting down the same bag, walking in circles, never uttering a word. Later at a restaurant, he would wander off if no one was watching, and then be led back to the group, only to wander off again, without an expression on his face.

His brain is deteriorating at a rapid pace, the doctors tell his wife. Why? No one knows. How can we stop it? You can’t. That’s Alzheimer’s.

He was put into a nursing home the day of this writing. In just two years he has gone from a loving and healthy husband, father and grandfather enjoying retirement, to a lifeless body in a house of lost hope. And a family is left devastated.

This type of devastation is becoming more and more common as reported cases of Alzheimer’s reach epic proportions. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are approximately 500,000 people dying each year from the disease. And that number is only expected to rise. 

The association also finds that the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5 million to as many as 16 million. That is an enormous — and frightening — increase.

And let’s not forget the astronomical cost of Alzheimer’s. According to the association, it’s the most expensive condition in the entire nation. To put a figure on it, in 2014, the direct costs to Americans caring for those with Alzheimer’s totaled approximately $214 billion. That number is expected to increase to $1.2 trillion in 2050.

From families worldwide to the world’s largest economies, dementia is leaving an unforgettable, unwanted mark. And there is no cure. But there is help. Long-term care insurance is an asset that is not given near enough of the attention it deserves. If my mother-in-law had LTCI, she would have help paying her husband’s $6,000-a-month nursing home bill. 

It’s not her fault, though. Most individuals have never even heard of LTCI, nor do they know it could be added as a rider to their life insurance or annuity products. That’s where we come in. 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.