What would happen if one day you woke up and forgot how to tie your shoes? What if you forgot your route to work, or your best friend from college, or the faces of those you love?
These hypothetical scenarios are scary realities for roughly 5.4 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, finding affordable life insurance can be a frustrating task.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term used to describe memory loss and a decreased ability in cognitive functioning.
The disease is most often found in elderly individuals, over the age of 65. Memory lapses occur at different rates and, as degeneration increases, lead to difficulty performing daily activities (sometimes referred to as Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs) and, eventually, death.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on Alzheimer’s disease.
Life Insurance with Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia and is a chronic debilitating disease.
The average life expectancy for individuals with this disease is roughly 8 to 12 years after diagnosis, making it the only disease among the top 10 leading causes of death that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Other types of dementia include:
- Vascular Dementia
- Creutzfedt-Jakob disease
- Alcohol/Drug-induced Korsakoff’s Syndrome
- Multi-infarct Dementia
- Central Nervous System Disorders
Each case of Alzheimer’s is assessed on an individual basis, using the date of diagnosis and the disease progression as a basis for assessing risk.
How Does Alzheimer’s Impact The Brain?
Dementia’s causes widely vary, depending on what types of brain changes are taking place. According to The National Institute on Aging, it is not uncommon for an individual to experience mixed dementia due to the degenerative processes taking place in the brain.
In 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimer examined the brain tissue of a woman who had passed away from a mental disease.
The woman experienced memory loss, unpredictable behavior and language difficulties. Dr. Alzheimer discovered changes in her brain including tangled neurofibrillary fibers (also known as tau fibers or tau tangles) and amyloid plaques.
Amyloid plaques are sticky buildups that occur outside of nerve cells. Amyloids are proteins normally found in the body. The buildup of these proteins causes beta amyloids to form, which are harmful to the brain and its functions.
Today, these tangles and plaques are pointed to as the main features of dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases.
The brain cells of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and the connections formed by these cells deteriorate and die, taking with them important mental functions.
Normally, neurons in the brain transmit messages to different parts of the mind, which then send signals to other organs, muscles and bodily functions. Due to the presence of these abnormal amyloids, the neurons of Alzheimer’s patients lose these connections.
Early Stages of Alzheimer’s
Research done by the National Institute on Aging asserts that the damage to the brain occurs roughly a decade before memory and cognitive functions begin to fail.
In these early stages, patients will often exhibit no symptoms, but protein deposits begin occurring in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory. As proteins kill more and more neurons in the brain and impact additional regions, brain tissues begin to shrink.
Individuals in these stages may experience:
- Difficulties in word-finding or language skills
- Impaired judgment
- Issues with vision
- Spatial issues
- A decline in non-memory-related cognitive aspects
Alzheimer’s research is still in its early stage; however, scientists do believe that there are certain biomarkers that may make early detection of the disease possible.
Underwriting Alzheimer’s Disease
When speaking to your life insurance agent, you will want to have him or her draft you a cover letter detailing a few key facts about the disease and your unique situation, including:
- The date the disease as diagnosed
- The policyholder’s current age
- The presence of any additional diseases
- How the disease impacts the policyholder’s ability to go about daily activities
The latter is a difficult question to ask and may be clarified in one of several ways, such as:
- Does the proposed insured drive independently?
- A list of ADL’s the proposed insured has difficulties performing?
- These include: bathing, toilet functions, dressing and feeding, and to what degree the proposed insured can perform each function independently.
- Does this individual manage his or her own finances?
- Does the insured run his/her own household?
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Memory loss is the most prevalent symptom of Alzheimer’s, however, not all memory loss is Alzheimer’s.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is found in some patients, which causes more memory malfunctions than normal; however, does not interfere with everyday activities.
In patients with MCI, difficulties with movement and the sense of smell are common.
It is important to note that, while older individuals with MCI have a greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s, not all individuals will develop the disease and some may even return to normal cognitive functioning over time.
If you or someone you love has MCI, give us a call today so we can help walk you through the steps toward finding a life insurance policy.
In many cases, finding insurance at a normal rating is possible for those with mild cognitive impairment.
Final Thoughts on Life Insurance with Dementia
Presenting your agent with the facts surrounding the dementia of you or your loved one will be able to help him or her find a company that works for you.
If you or someone you love is going through the stress of dealing with an Alzheimer’s/dementia diagnosis, we believe that you should not have to go through the stress of shopping for a policy to suit your needs. We can help. Give us a call today to find out more information on finding an affordable life insurance policy with dementia.
Additionally, we know that watching your loved one suffer with dementia or Alzheimer’s is an emotionally trying time for you and your family. Support groups and counseling may be necessary to prepare you for the effects of these diseases.
Please visit http://www.alz.org/help-support to find support groups near you.