Someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia approximately every three seconds. In most cases, the term dementia is a catchall phrase that refers to many types of neurodegenerative diseases. Neurodegenerative diseases bring about the onset of dementia including but not limited to: Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia, vascular dementia, which is currently the second most common form of dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and the most recently identified LATE (limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy) which mimics Alzheimer’s symptoms but is caused by a different brain mechanism.
There is a long-held view that cognitive decline is a normal consequence of aging, but this has been disproven by the successful aging of many individuals who remain in full control of their mental faculties. And although not everyone will have to deal with this debilitating disease, the likelihood that you will get dementia does increase once you turn 65, particularly for those that carry the apolipoprotein E gene variant APOE ε4.The economic impact of dementia is profound. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that by 2040, the US cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease alone is estimated to be a staggering $379 to $500 billion annually. These costs include the direct costs of social and medical care as well as care provided for by unpaid family care providers. Although research has led to the possibility of early detection, there is still no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which makes these cost projections all the more alarming. Research efforts to find a cure have unfortunately been expensive without much return; many leading drug companies are even halting their efforts to finding a cure. Those who have dementia have a disability and dependence on loved ones and a health care system that is woefully unprepared for the scale and cost of maintaining their lives. Some biomarkers that identify Alzheimer’s disease early on may accelerate the development of new therapies as the disease timeline progression is substantial, but it remains unknown which treatments will be most effective and at what point in the disease continuum.
Even though dementia is not an inevitable consequence of aging, the increase of its probability plays into the laws of large numbers. There are studies that show certain lifestyle choices can play a role in decreasing your chances of developing some form of dementia. In particular, diet seems to influence oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain; in particular, a Mediterranean diet appears to have a positive effect on brain health in general. Exercising and maintaining positive social relationships also helps maintain balanced brain health. Combining these three aspects of diet, exercise, and social ties is most effective for brain health. These modifiable habits are proactive to keep the brain from neurodegeneration rather than reactive to a dementia diagnosis.
The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies the principal goals for dementia care as:
- early diagnosis in order to promote early and optimal management,
- optimizing physical health, cognition, activity and well-being,
- identifying and treating accompanying physical illness,
- detecting and treating challenging behavioral and psychological symptoms, and
- providing information and long-term support to careers.
Although many remain optimistic about what the future may hold with respect to treatment and ultimately a cure, a diagnosis of dementia has profound consequences for health and wellness, relationships, retirement, and economic well being. Some states already have dementia health directive templates to address future issues of dementia while a person is still mentally capable of making sound decisions. Like all things in life, it is best to be proactively managing circumstances rather than reacting to problems.
At Hodgkins Law, it’s important to us that our clients and our neighbors stay as healthy and as independent as they can for as long as they can. However, we know that dementia and other illnesses can unexpectedly leave you in need of assistance at any time, so we work with families to get a plan in place before you need one. For more information, please visit our website or give us a call, attend a free educational seminar, or schedule a consultation with our team.