Long Term Care

Emory University: Women Bear Heavier Economic Burden for Alzheimer’s Care

September 11th, 2015
Emory University: Women Bear Heavier Economic Burden for Alzheimer’s Care

The Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center published the results of a new research study which indicated what many people already suspected … Alzheimer’s is a women’s issue.

The study, published September 10, 2015 in the journal "Women's Health Issues", finds women bear six times the cost of Alzheimer's disease (AD) care, per capita, that men do. The authors say the greater cost burden is largely due to the informal care women deliver to family members with AD.

This is a real big issue for women since they are also in greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association says a 65-year-old American woman has a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. That does NOT count other type of memory loss such as simple dementia that impacts people, nor does it count early onset Alzheimer’s which impacts younger people.

Women in their 60s are also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than breast cancer, according to the report — “2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” — from the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Emory study is suggesting that women, in general, are also the caregivers, at least on an informal basis which impacts them directly as a caregiver or economically as they deal with the costs of extended Long Term Care due to the memory loss of a loved one.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and is ultimately fatal. It is also one of the most expensive diseases in our country — more costly than heart disease or cancer.

The authors of the research, Zhou Yang, PhD, assistant professor in Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, and Allan Levey, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology and director of the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, used a lifetime perspective to calculate AD costs and looked at three factors: the probability of developing the disease, the disease's duration, and the formal and informal care needed for the AD patient.

"There is strong evidence that women face higher risks of being affected by Alzheimer's as either patients or informal caregivers," says Yang.

"It is critical to develop public policy interventions aimed at curing or slowing the progress of the disease to benefit the health and economic welfare of women everywhere," he said.

"This is the first study of its kind to document the disparate economic impact of Alzheimer's on Women as patients and caregivers and the concomitant burden on our public health systems," said Jill Lesser, President, WomenAgainstAlzheimer's.

The financial impact of the cost of care creates burdens on both families as well as state and federal government budgets. Although more people are taking advantage of Long Term Care Insurance and other means of saving for future care well before they retire, many don’t.

Long Term Care Insurance costs are based on age and health and tend to be very affordable if purchased before retirement. However, if people wait too long the cost could be too high or their health may prevent them from obtaining coverage. This places the burden on family and once assets are spent down, on the taxpayer through the Medicaid program, the medical welfare program.

“Long Term Care Insurance requires applicants meet health qualifications which become more difficult after age 60. In fact, a quarter of applicants between ages 60 and 69 are declined coverage when they apply because of health conditions,” said Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance (AALTCI). The AALTCI is a national consumer advocacy group which assists both consumers and financial professionals in education on this topic.

Slome adds the percentage of declined applications increases to almost 50 percent after age 70. This is why many people will make Long Term Care Insurance part of their retirement plan as health tends to be better and premiums reflect that as well.

Slome advises comparing rates from several insurers, as premiums vary widely. The latest analysis found the difference between the lowest- and highest-cost policies for the same coverage ranged from 34 percent to as much as 119 percent.

Planning is important for families, but for women it is critical.

Women are of greater need and are far more likely to use the benefits of a Long Term Care Insurance policy says Slome. The Emory University study is just another example of why this issue is important to plan for well in advance of any change in health.

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