November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. We would like to remember that when we ask the question, "How do you feel about living until 100?" Most people would love to live to be 100… provided they get to keep a good quality of life. However, with an aging population—including many Baby Boomers—and with genetic testing becoming more available, these people are facing the tough reality about what their elder years might look like. For some individuals, that could include dementia.
The (Bryan TX) Eagle’s recent article, “Alzheimer’s disease: Five common myths, busted,” reports that, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. There are up to 5.7 million individuals who live and die with the disease, which makes it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The article provides five common myths about Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth # 1: Memory loss is a normal part of growing older. A slip of the memory may well be a normal part of growing older. While these forgetful moments may cause a bit of frustration and embarrassment, they don’t affect our ability to live an independent life. However, if a loved one has trouble remembering commonly used words or loses the ability to communicate, it could be a potential symptom rather than a natural senior side-effect.
Myth # 2: Alzheimer’s can be reversed, if it’s diagnosed early. No. Unfortunately, there's no treatment that will reverse the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. However, although there are therapies and drugs that can slow down the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s, there is no known cure. Even so, early diagnosis has its benefits, like better symptom management, a safer patient environment and the ability to plan for the future.
Myth # 3: Alzheimer’s just affects older people. Some Alzheimer’s patients can get diagnosed in their 40’s or 50’s. The early onset Alzheimer’s is uncommon (just 5% of patients are diagnosed before age 65); an accurate diagnosis is important to help the family cope with the realities of the disease.
Myth # 4: A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s means your life is over. Many people live years or even decades, before the disease claims their lives. Alzheimer’s effects each patient differently. The disease is commonly divided into three stages. The first or “mild” stage is where the patient is able to live a mostly normal life. The middle or “moderate” stage requires more extensive care. And in the late or “severe” stage, the patient needs 24/7 supervision and medical assistance. Life many never be the same with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but it’s far from over.
Myth # 5: There’s little you can do to protect yourself financially, if you are diagnosed with the disease. A serious diagnosis of any type can drastically impact a family, but it’s important to understand that there are things you can and should do to help your loved ones manage what comes next, emotionally as well as financially. Look at these ways you can help:
- Create a list of all financial accounts;
- Review the titles and names on each account;
- Look at your options for paying for medical care, such as existing insurance policies, Medicare coverage, or other sources of funding;
- Consider designating a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, so that a trusted person can make decisions for the patient if there’s an accident or incapacitation;
- Communicating preferences for living arrangements, medical assistance and end-of-life care;
- Be sure your will is up to date.
- Do your planning BEFORE a crisis hits.
Don’t think you have to manage the diagnosis alone. We can help you with your questions, as well as all phases planning and recommend life care resources for care.
Reference: The (Bryan TX) Eagle (October 4, 2018) “Alzheimer’s disease: Five common myths, busted”