Gray areas and the eventual cost of dementia care. It’s substantially more than for heart disease or cancer.

Gray areas…

In our “Having Your Voice” class, we talk about gray areas…the time when we begin to lose the ability to make effective decisions.

Anyone living long enough will experience this to some degree but, for some, it is the beginning of a more serious, substantial, and accelerated decline into dementia. It is important to appreciate that Alzheimer’s is not the only form of dementia… there are others that are equally devastating.

Gina Kolata’s article from the New York Times on October 26, 2015 states that the cost for treatment of heart disease and cancer for the last five years of life is roughly $175,000 while the cost for dementia care is $285,000.   The cost difference is due to the hands-on care required for caring for someone with dementia.

If you want to learn more about the impact on family, read “A Life Worth Ending”, a compelling article by Michael Wolff whose mother had dementia. He beautifully describes the woman she was, the last tragic years of her life, and the impact on the family.

What are the options for someone who develops dementia?
1. Having financial means helps because there are resources to support the person.
2. Having long term care insurance is valuable in gaining assistance.   However, it is expensive and usually has to be purchased when you are young and don’t need it. (Wolff comments darkly about the ongoing struggles to gain payment for services for which he asserts his mother is entitled).

While I am not advocating suicide, two well written articles address the decisions that were made by two women who were diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Both women recognized the loss of dignity and the many burdens they would place on others as their disease progressed. They made a different choice.

Gilean Bennet, a former professor and psychotherapist who lived in western Canada, wrote a farewell that described her reasoning and decision to take medicine to end her life. It includes comments about the needless expenditure of resources when there was little that would bring her a satisfying quality of life.

Robin Henig wrote about a professor of psychology who carefully researched how to take her life after she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Although she didn’t want to take her life, she knew that she would get to the place where she couldn’t because of the impairment of her disease. Henig describes how her impairment almost defeated her intention.

In the realm of Hollywood films, “Still Alice” beautifully depicts the dilemma faced by a professor diagnosed with early onset dementia. It depicts Alice’s failing in an attempt to take her life because she was too impaired to complete the act of taking pills. Clearly, in patients with dementia, the window of opportunity to take their own life closes at some point.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU
As always, there are profound and difficult questions for you to ponder. Here is a brief sample:
1. What would you do if you were diagnosed with a progressive incurable form of dementia?
2. How much medical care would you want to sustain your life (such as for blood pressure, cholesterol, heart medication)?
3. Are there family members you could identify who would be willing to care for you?
4. Do you or they have the resources (financial, personal, spiritual, etc.) to care for you?
5. Would you consider taking your life if you were able to do it?

Share your responses to these questions with your family. It’s an important conversation to have.

2 comments


  • Chealen Williams Charles

    Please there is a cure for dementia and no one knows. This is my husband’s story… My husband was a retired force man, he had partial stroke 5 years ago, and then i was still working. His condition got worse and he was hospitalized. After some time of treatment he began to behave abnormal, like someone who has lost memory of event and occurrence. i shared tears the very day i walked to him in the hospital and he could not even recognize me. This is am man that is very playful and highly romantic. Each day i hold him to myself and share tears the more. He was not able to do anything just look at me like a bull dog and do so many abnormal things. Later on doctor brought a recent report and he was diagnosed of dementia this doctor says have no cure that he would die a brainless man. Oh my God i fainted when i heard this. I raised my voice and cry to God to help me from this. So i began to hope and trust God to do miracle. My pastor was a great pillar of encouragement to me. i did all i can to get a cure for him, but none worked out, i spent thousands of USD trying to get a cure for him. But behold a friends doctor came visiting and said to me let’s look if herbal remedy can help him get any better so he gave me your website which is www. drisimhenmhenherbalhome.com there i saw how people testified of the good works of herbs in their life, so i decided to contact the doctor because his contact details was on his website.. The first time i emailed him, i got no reply from him, so i decided to call him on the phone. I called him, and told him what he could do was to laugh and said to me that anything the enemy have planned against my husband must fail, he said to me that he have cured CJD and this is similar to what my husband have. After all, he prepared herbs and sent to me, i have to force my husband to take it because before then he was not taking anything from me to eat anymore. but behold sir it was just like a magic gradually my husband begin to get better, better and today sir i am proud to say my husband is totally cured, He you cured my husband of this deadly dementia disease and now i keep my promise i made to him before the cure that i will let the entire world know about his herbs if my husband is cured. Sir, now i am overwhelmed. God bless you sir. My husband has the plans to travel to see the doctor facially and say a physical thanks to him in his country, and i will accompany him down to his home in his country to also show my gratitude him. God bless him in abundant. If you have same problem or have other health issues and want to contact Doctor Isimhenmhen Anthony, here is his website (http://drisimhenmhenherbalhome.com)

    June 12, 2016
    • admin

      Of course, I’m glad to hear that this person has recovered from what may have been a mistake in diagnosis. I’m not a doctor but confess to some skepticism about the power of herbs in this situation. But what is undeniably present in this post is the frantic and terrifying emotions that the writer so elegantly expressed. It reveals how important it is for families and loved ones to talk about (1) what should happen if someone becomes cognitively impaired, (2) who should be consulted and how many “second opinions” are requested, and (3) what you want for medical care if you are, indeed, diagnosed with a form of dementia or a brain disease which is affirmed to be irreversible. Not having the conversation leaves a relative with terribly difficult choices. When you initiate this planning, you are saying that you love those who care about them enough to tell them what you want and to not worry and second guess themselves.

      June 26, 2016

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