A World Without Alzheimer’s? Someday—But Prepare For Today

The reality is that very few people are prepared for the cost of caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s.

Before I began my career in the insurance industry I was an emergency room nurse. I cared for people with a wide variety of medical conditions and saw how those conditions affected families for months or even years after they left the hospital. Many people think of long term care as an old person’s issue but, over and over, I saw firsthand that it is everyone’s issue.

Because of those experiences, I still maintain my nursing license and follow medical research and trends that promise to improve quality of life for people with medical conditions. Those experiences also fuel my passion every day for helping people prepare for situations they hope they never have to face.

Working toward the best while preparing for the worst—really, that’s the goal of all of us who help others prepare for retirement. And it’s a goal we share with the Alzheimer’s Association, which works every day to both fund Alzheimer’s related research and to improve the lives of those affected with Alzheimer’s and other dementias and their loved ones.

“Currently there are 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to increase as the population age 65 and older increases,” said Ruth Drew, director, information and support services, Alzheimer’s Association. “By 2050, nearly 14 million Americans will be living with the disease unless treatments are advanced.

“The reality is that very few people are prepared for the cost of caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s,” Drew said. “Many believe health insurance or Medicare will cover costs, but the costs of caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s often extend well beyond these coverages. The best time to plan for the long term care is to do so before you need it, but unfortunately many families do not have these important discussions until they’re in crisis.”

The Alzheimer’s Association website offers many useful tools, advice and information for those affected by the disease and their families. When you consider that every 65 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and that one in three seniors will die with the disease,1 you can quickly start to see how significant the financial impact of the disease can be to your clients and to their financial portfolios.

We’re working in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association because we like what it stands for—optimism for a better future—while helping families prepare for the reality of today.

“We know that people age 65 and older survive an average of four to eight years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia, yet some live as long as 20 years with a diagnosis,” said Chris Coudret, CLU, ChFC, vice president of distribution and market strategy for Individual Life and Financial Services at OneAmerica®. “Serving on the board of my local Alzheimer’s Association chapter is one way that I can stay involved in ways to help people plan for the possibility of this long term care need. At OneAmerica, we’re looking for ways to spread that spirit of involvement to even more of the people in our industry.”

This year at ILTCI in Chicago, we’re sharing our space with the Alzheimer’s Association to highlight their important work for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. We’ll encourage people to share their stories in support the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Ultimately, we hope that by becoming more familiar with the Alzheimer’s Association and its work, people in the financial profession will become more comfortable talking to their clients about the possibility of themselves or loved ones needing care for a long period of time and how they can best prepare financially for that possibility.
The costs of Alzheimer’s can be devastating financially. Most people, if asked, probably know this. But let’s face it—preparing for that possibility can seem hopeless, so they either put off planning for it or ignore it altogether.

If you’re helping people prepare for retirement by building a retirement income, but you haven’t talked about long term care planning to protect what you and they have built, then you’re only providing part of the picture—you haven’t fully prepared them. Having the right conversation about long term care protection—what it is and what it isn’t and building a plan—is such an important part of what you do.

Products like asset-based long-term care (ABLTC)—those that provide protection for long term care while still allowing people to maintain control of their assets—are one way to offer hope for people that they can manage those fears of “what could happen” in retirement. ABLTC products offer flexibility to fit a variety of situations—joint protection of two lives with one policy, multiple-pay options, even lifetime benefits—while also offering guarantees that stand-alone LTCI can’t.

Premiums for ABLTC are guaranteed, and should long term care benefits not be fully used, a death benefit passes to heirs. If they are needed, long term care benefits that continue for many years, or even a lifetime, can help protect against long term care needs such as the 10 or even 20 years of care that could be needed with diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Long term care protection offered by these benefits can provide invaluable peace of mind, especially for families who come face to face with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

A particular area of focus and resources for the Alzheimer’s Association is directed toward caregivers, because of the enormous impact on them. According to the association, 16.1 million Americans are providing unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, to the tune of an estimated 18.4 billion hours of care valued at approximately $232 billion. In 2018, the cost of care related to Alzheimer’s is estimated to cost the nation $277 billion. By 2050, that amount could rise to $1.1 trillion. When families are faced with the many decisions involved with caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, protection of their loved one’s retirement income can provide hope that care can be delivered as the patient wishes, where and by whom is best for the family’s situation.

To hear more about ways you can be involved with bringing hope to conversations about Alzheimer’s disease, I invite you to visit the Alzheimer’s Association in the OneAmerica booth at ILTCI in Chicago later this month and explore the many resources available on their website, http://alz.org.

“2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” Alzheimer’s Association, https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/facts-and-figures-2018-r.pdf.

Tracey Edgar, RN, BSN, CLTC, is vice president of sales, Care Solutions, for the companies of OneAmerica®. She formerly led brokerage sales for the OneAmerica Care Solutions suite of asset-based long term care products. In her current role she leads Care Solutions sales and distribution across all distribution channels.

An industry veteran, Edgar has been helping brokerage general agencies with strategic direction, planning and marketing for more than 20 years.

She is a national speaker on the topic “The Long-Term Care Crisis in America.” Her professional history includes critical care nursing and nine years of military service. Edgar is a registered nurse in the state of Michigan, has the certified in LTC (CLTC) designation and holds a life and health insurance license. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Grand Valley State University and has completed the Harvard Business School’s Leadership for Senior Executives Certification program.

Edgar may be reached at OneAmerica, One American Square, P.O. Box 368, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Telephone: 317-285-1009. Email: tracey.edgar@oneamerica.com.