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Ask anyone about Alzheimer’s disease and you will probably get shudder, grimace, and a story about a friend or family member’s tragic loss of consciousness. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia conditions impact all of us reaches far beyond dementia patient statistics.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that in 2014, Alzheimer’s disease afflicted about 14,000 Indiana residents aged 65-74 years; 45,000 aged 75-84 years; and 45,000 aged more than 85 years (with an imprecisely rounded total of 100,000 patients out of the US Census Bureau’s 6,666,818 estimated Indiana population as of 2017). The data for Illinois residents reveals similar population proportions with Alzheimer’s patients constituting approximately 28,000 people age 65-74 years; 89,000 875-84 years; and 94,000 more than 85 years (with an imprecisely rounded total of 210,000 patients out of a US Census Bureau’s 12,802,023 estimated Illinois population as of 2017). The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 60% – 80% of all dementia patients suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which means that total dementia cases for 2014 could have fallen within the following ranges:

STATE 65-74 74-84 85+ TOTAL
Indiana 17,500 – 23,333 56,250 – 75,000 56,250 – 75,000 125,000 – 166,667
Illinois 35,000 – 46,667 111,250 – 148,333 117,500 – 156,667 262,500 – 350,000

Dementia devastates patients and families in many ways. The mere thought of a demented adult’s loss of the ability to live freely and function independently terrifies most people. Dementia patients that live alone often make terrible financial decisions and endanger their own health and safety. A demented patient’s spouse may feel imprisoned by the constant need to supervise an adult whose mind is decaying toward infancy. Close family members may experience loss as if part of the patient is dying each day.

It is important for a dementia patient’s family members to protect themselves and the patient from as much pain and loss as possible as early as possible. First, the family needs to know what to expect. In addition, the patient needs to have someone authorized to make legal and healthcare decisions on the patient’s behalf. Furthermore, the family needs a financial strategy to prevent long-term healthcare costs from creating unnecessary financial crisis. Finally, the patient and family needs a support structure to carry the inevitable emotional and physical burdens of caring for a dementia patient.

The power of information and supportive people can help family members endure dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association offers important information about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease on its website at www.alz.org. Friends and family members that have dealt with other dementia patients, especially those who share spiritual faith, can provide invaluable emotional comfort and physical support. Perhaps most importantly with respect to legal and financial planning, early consultation with an experienced elder law attorney can make all the difference between financial catastrophe and reasonable financial security for the patient and family.

A decaying mind can overload even the strongest person with an overwhelming burden of grief and loss. No one should bear that load alone.

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Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers. Jeff is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel  and the 2014-15 Indiana State Bar Association President . © Copyright 2015 Hawkins Law PC. All rights reserved.