When President Ronald Reagan declared November National Alzheimer’s Awareness month in 1983, fewer than 2 million people had been diagnosed with the disease. Now, an estimated 5.5 million people are living with the disease, and by 2050, that number could rise to 60 million.1
November is also Long-Term Care Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to plan for conversations about the impact Alzheimer’s and other debilitating diseases can have on retirement plans.
Hopefully, someday a cure for Alzheimer’s will be found. Until that time comes, the American public needs to be made aware of the impact this disease can have on them and their family.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Every 66 seconds an individual age 65 or older is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
- 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for Alzheimer’s or other dementias
‘Better than average’ planning
Talking about Alzheimer’s with clients can be difficult, but talking about building a retirement plan to survive any long-term care event is a good way to bring up the subject. Studies indicate that people age 65 and older survive an average of four to eight years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, yet some live as long as 20 years with Alzheimer’s.
A good retirement plan considers the possibility of long-term care, either in home or in a facility. But planning for an “average” long-term care event can leave a big gap later in retirement. The average long-term care event lasts just under three years, depending on factors such as age when the event begins, whether a person is male or female, and others.2
More and more as Baby Boomers age, they’re increasingly needing some degree of long-term care for chronic health conditions or other disabilities. About half of the people using long-term care services—either in home or in a facility—have a long-term disease such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, or depression. These types of illnesses often last far longer than the average of three years, and may not be anticipated when a person first enters retirement.
Self-funding long-term care longer than five years becomes all but impossible for most people. More likely, they end up spending down assets to qualify for Medicaid, which can leave a surviving spouse or children with little to nothing left of the assets the person built their retirement plan upon.
The non-financial burden on families is high, as well. When Alzheimer’s patients need care, often a loved one is the primary caregiver, especially in early stages. However, 35 percent of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia report their own health has gotten worse as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.2