Dementia results in the inability to process thought. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and affects about 8 million people. There is no way to predict whom it will affect, when it will attack or how long it will last.
The devastation caused by this disease affects families, friends, and business associates. As basic needs must constantly be provided for the affected loved one family members are taken away from their own family obligations, their business and financial success and security for their own futures, instilling exhaustion as well as guilt. Plans for children’s educations, a second home, or weddings are shattered.
A 2013 study indicated that the cost of dementia in the U.S. is $159B – $215B annually – more expensive than heart disease or cancer. Cost of Dementia Tops $159Billion Annually in the United States, Rand Corp. (Apr 3, 2013), www.rand.org/news/press/2013/04/03.html. The cost to individuals and their families can be tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars annually — costs the patient had no desire to impose on loved ones.
Patients and families can be empowered to minimize the effects of this horrible disease:
First: Start Early. Get long term care insurance for yourselves or your parents, while still insurable.
Second: Have detailed General Durable Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives for Health Care in place, naming primary and contingents individuals to make decisions for you if you are not able.
Third: Have regular doctor’s visits and do not hesitate to discuss changes you note in your behavior or memory. Bring a family member or friend with you who knows you well and can verify your actions.
Fourth: Regularly check on the individuals you have named to take actions for you. Be sure they are still the ones you believe will act on your behalf.
As with all catastrophes, the best option is to plan ahead to avoid making their effects worse than they need to be.