Dementia Rates Are Declining (No I am Not Confused. This Good News is the Real Deal!)

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of adults in the United States with dementia (including Alzheimer’s) fell from 11.6 percent to 8.8 percent.  That’s a pretty good drop.  And, the Framingham study (a long-running research project in one small largely white and well off community) — found that dementia rates have fallen by about 20 percent in every decade between 1977 and 2008.
dementiaEat well, learn a new language, spend time with friends and avoid stress — just a few possible ways to avoid dementia.  See below for more details!

This is Good News for Everyone

If you are worried about dementia in yourself or a loved one, dementia rates declining is good news.  However, the decline also has a big impact on public health expenditures overall.

“If the rate of dementia in 2012 had been what it was in 2000, there would be well more than 1 million additional people with dementia,” said John Haaga, director of the National Institute on Aging’s behavioral and social research.

There are currently more than 5 million people who suffer from Alzheimer’s in the United States.  And, that number is projected to double as baby boomers age over the next 20 years.  So, any decrease in the incidence will be helpful.

Caring for people with dementia can be a tremendous emotional and financial burden. The Rand Corporation has estimated that the financial costs of dementia in the United States range from $159 to $215 billion each year with other research estimating that Medicare covers about $11 billion.

What a Dementia Rate Decline Could Mean to Your Retirement Healthcare Expenditures

While the national costs of dementia care are huge, these expenditures can also have a hugely significant impact on your own retirement budget.

Healthcare is one of the three biggest expenses almost everyone contends with in retirement.  And, dementia can more than double your retirement medical spending.   According to research from Brown University, “The total average cost to care for a person with dementia was more than $321,000 over about five years, compared to an average cost of $137,280 to care for the same person without dementia.”

Worse yet the Brown University research found that people with dementia bear a full 70% of the total healthcare cost associated with mental decline with the balance being paid by Medicare and Medicaid.

Dementia care is a significant expense that not all retirees are really prepared for.  Do you really have an extra $300,000 laying around just in case you need it?

If you are worried about funding your retirement healthcare, it can be a great idea to use a well regarded and highly detailed retirement calculator.

The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator has been hailed as the most comprehensive free tool online.  Once you have set up an account and entered some initial information, you can add a lot of detail and try endless “what if” scenarios.  On the “Medical” page in “Your Plan,” you can even try out various options for how you might be able to pay for a long term care event like dementia and immediately see how it could impact your finances now and into the future.

Want some ideas now?  Explore 5 creative ways to plan for and fund long term care.

What Can You Do to Prevent Dementia?

My Grandfather had Alzheimer’s. It was kind of scary. So much so that 30 years after his death I still often consider whether or not I carry the gene. I think my Mother worries about it too. She helped care for him and I’ve noticed that she is a tad bit obsessive about eating blueberries and keeping her brain super active.

And, in fact, there are a few things that researchers think can improve your chances of avoiding dementia.  Research by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care found that one third of cases of dementia worldwide could potentially be prevented through better management of lifestyle factors such as smoking, hypertension, depression and hearing loss over the course of a lifetime.

Here are a few things to consider:

Education: The University of Michigan study cited above suggests that education could be a factor.  They found that the group in the 2012 study had, on average, about one extra year of education than the people studied in the 2000 group.

The researchers suggest that more education can create a greater “cognitive reserve.” People with more education have created enough backup synapses and neurons that they actually can afford to lose a few to Alzheimer’s or dementia without the diseases negatively impacting them.

Learn a Language: Maybe you are not ready to go back to school to add more years of education.  However, you could learn a language.  Adding another language may delay Alzheimer’s by more than 4 years.  Maybe it’s time to retire abroad to help your language acquisition!

Not sure you want to habla español or parler francais?  Learning anything new and engaging in lifelong learning in a meaningful and measurable way should have the same protective effect.

Go for a Run: Want to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%?  Go for a run and make sure your distance adds up to at least 15 miles per week.

Don’t like running?  Any regular exercise is going to help.

Quit Smoking: A report from the World Health Organization found that smokers have a much higher risk of developing dementia than non smokers.  Programs to help you quit smoking are offered by Medicare.

Avoid Stress: Stress whether from loneliness, depression, financial pressure, hearing loss or some other cause may contribute to dementia or Alzheimer’s.  One study found that people who already had some minor cognitive impairment and who also had high levels of anxiety were 135% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Eat Like You Are on a Greek Vacation:  Remember “The Mediterranean Diet” popular in the 80s and 90s?  Eating lots of fruit, vegetables, lean protein (especially fish), whole grains, olive oil and legumes and avoiding red meats can reduce the risk of dementia.

What About Mom’s Blueberries: Yep! Blueberries are on the list of foods that can improve your cognitive functions and help you avoid dementia.  Other beneficial foods include: leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, beans, all berries and cherries too, pumpkin, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, beats and fish.

Nuts!: You might not turn nuts if you eat lots of nuts? Yes, its true, almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and pecans could be protective.

Plan Your Future Finances Now (You Make the Best Financial Decisions in Your 50s)

Want to have the strongest retirement plan possible? It may be a good idea to create a detailed retirement plan and make big financial decisions when you are younger rather than waiting.

Regardless of actual dementia, our financial acuity seems to decline relatively early.

Research suggests that the average person’s peak financial decision making age is around 53 years old. The study, “The Age of Reason,” found that “our ability to make sound financial decisions increases sharply in our 20s and 30s, levels off and peaks in our 50s then begins to fall sharply in our 70s and 80s.

Document your plans and decisions now. It is easy to get started with the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator.

See how long term care costs and other factors impact your retirement plan

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