Researchers around the world are scrambling to save your clients from dementia, protect your clients’ financial resources, keep government health programs from going broke, and (indirectly) make issuers of private long-term care insurance (LTCI) look beautiful.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA), a federal agency that supports research on increasing Americans’ healthy, active years of life, has just published a major update on the current state of U.S. dementia science: “2014-2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Advancing Research Toward a Cure.”
Many families affected by dementia have complained that, up till now, research has rarely produced any results that have done much to help prevent or treat dementia. The dementia drugs now on the market have only modest effects and work only for some patients.
One example is cholinesterase inhibitors. They can keep levels of a nerve-cell learning chemical high. But they work for only about half of the people who take the drugs, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Even for the people who benefit, the drugs put off the worsening of symptoms for only about six to 12 months.
The situation is so dire that some prominent members of the dementia community want the world to spend less money on efforts to detect, prevent and treat dementia and more on efforts to support the families already affected by dementia.
See also: 3 rays of hope from the Alzheimer’s Association conference
Meanwhile, because people with severe dementia need so much attention, dementia accounts for a huge percentage of your clients’ catastrophic LTC risk. About 60 percent of the people in U.S. nursing homes suffer from dementia.
The number of people who have dementia is likely to rise simply because the baby boomers are aging, but there are some studies suggesting that the likelihood that relatively young people, including people in their 30s and 40s, will develop dementia might be rising.
See also: 5 things to know about a scary neurological death study
Private long-term care insurance (LTCI) issuers pay about $8 billion in benefits per year for insureds with all kinds of conditions getting all kinds of LTC services. That’s a huge amount, but not compared with what this country actually spends on dementia care. This year, we will spend about $226 billion on nursing home care and hospice care for people with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
See also: Coping with America’s coming cognitive decline
Clearly, the best solutions for your clients, for the insurers on the hook to pay dementia-related claims and for the governmental agencies that believe they have a moral obligation to try to keep uninsured and underinsured people with dementia off the sidewalk would be scientific breakthroughs that help prevent or treat many cases of dementia.
The best way to support the patients who need dementia-related LTC services and the families struggling to provide informal care would be to eliminate the need for all that care.
The world has done that with polio, and mostly that with tuberculosis. Why not with dementia?
For a look at five things LTC planners, and, really, anyone with ambitions of living past age 35, ought to know about research to relegate dementia to the medical history museums, read on.
1. NIA managers say they have an obvious need for more money for dementia research.
The NIA is an arm of the much better known National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NIA controls $1.2 billion of the $30 billion NIH research budget. Congress has been cutting medical research funding in recent years, not increasing it, but it has increased NIH Alzheimer’s funding to $469 million for the current federal fiscal year, from $422 million.
NIH managers are lobbying for $323 million in extra funding for fiscal year 2017, saying that would help accelerate the war against dementia.
NIH managers say the extra funding would speed up the process of developing better dementia diagnostic criteria and tools; discovering and testing markers researchers can use to track the severity of dementia; seeing how dementia affects various populations; and studying the genetics of dementia.
See also: Glaxo, Pfizer, U.K. form $100 million Alzheimer’s research fund