A study by Blue Cross Blue Shield published earlier this year found that the rates of diagnosis of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has tripled over a five-year period, jumping by 200%. According to the Forbes article reporting on the study:
“In 2017, there were 12.6 diagnoses per 10,000 adults of either early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for commercially insured adults aged 30 to 64, the report said. That compares to 4.2 diagnoses per 10,000 adults of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease combined for the same 30 to 64 age group in 2013.”
This is an alarming finding for multiple reasons. For one, the age of diagnosis is astonishingly young. Many such patients wouldn’t expect to encounter dementia or Alzheimer’s for several decades, especially if they’re among the number being diagnosed in their 30s. For another, the study found that women were disproportionately impacted than men. This is concerning not only for the impact on individual lives and their family members, but women are also the most common caregivers to elderly parents or relatives, in addition to children. However, with a dementia diagnosis, affected women may be unable to safely step into that role. And thirdly, our healthcare system already struggles to provide affordable and quality care for dementia patients, as well as others, and if more Americans are diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s, we can likely expect more Americans to struggle with healthcare expenses.
Often with patients who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, family members reach a point at which it becomes nearly impossible to provide care for their loved one that is safe and effective, leading to assisted living or memory care facilities as an expensive option of last resort.
However, seeing these studies now means we are more likely to be able to prepare ourselves and our loved ones. We can do that by reviewing our legal documents and establishing both retirement and medical end-of-life plans, which can include financial planning and retirement planning and trusts, Last Will and Testaments, and powers of attorney.
If early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or early-onset dementia are on the rise, then this means it is more important than ever to have your legal documents prepared at an early age. Even young twenty-somethings, who may not normally feel a need for medical or legal documents establishing their end-of-life wishes, would benefit from having such documents in place.