As elder law attorneys we keep a close eye on all emerging trends that are relevant to our clients. With this in mind we read a recent study released by the Alzheimer’s Association entitled “2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” with great interest. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia among Americans by a very wide margin accounting for some 60%- 80% of all dementia cases.
What exactly is dementia? There are specific symptoms, but in a nutshell it could be described as a reduction in mental capacity that makes it difficult for the victim to handle his or her day-to-day affairs. This can include complex decision-making, and of course estate planning and tending to other important financial matters would fit this category. But in its advanced stages Alzheimer’s can impact the sufferers ability to take care of his or her most basic needs, things like eating, dressing, and matters of personal hygiene and health.
The ubiquity of this condition among the senior citizen population makes it something that must be logically planned for as a contingency from an elder law perspective. In all, 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease according to the 2010 Alzheimer’s Association study, and 5.1 million of these sufferers are at least 65 years old.
This means that 13% of senior citizens have Alzheimer’s disease, and the oldest old, people who are at least 85 years of age, suffer a much higher rate of affliction. Approximately 40% of people in the United States 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. It should be added that people 85 and up are the fastest-growing segment of the United States society.
When you combine all of these facts it becomes clear that you’re more likely to live beyond the age of 85 than ever, and once you reach this age Alzheimer’s disease becomes a very significant possibility. This makes incapacity planning a necessary addition to the modern end-of-life plan and it is certainly something that you should discuss with your elder law attorney.