Minding Alzheimer’ s
Financial preparation for the disease is cr ucial
SEPTEMBER is W orld Alzheimer’ s a wareness month.
Dr Peter Bond, chief medical officer at Old Mutual, provides some insight on how to prepare for the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.
The dramatic increase in the incidenc e of the disease and a recent finding that a quarter of South Africans will suffer from a mental health condition in their lifetime should spur breadwinners to prepare financially for the c ost of the c ondition, he said.
The South African Federation for Mental Health said 75% of people with mental health disorders are untreated, while the organisation Alzheimer’s in Action estimates SA has 750 000 people with Alzheimer’s — a number that will double by 2030.
The figures place a r esponsibility on financial service providers to clearly explain the e xtent of the cover their various products provide, he said.
Consumers need to inform themselves and seek out sound ad vice.
“Being a ware and pr eparing f or Alzheimer’ s should form part of everybody’s financial lifestyle planning,” said Dr B ond in a s tatement.
“Advances in tr eatment mean that people li ve longer with the disease than previously. While this is good ne ws, it ma y also incr ease the financial burden on families who have to cover the cost of treatment as well as part or fulltime carers should they be needed, ” he said.
In its advanced stages, the sufferer’s mental state often places great strain on loved ones, who may then opt t o admit them f or fulltime car e. That can c ost man y thousands of r ands a month.
Dr Bond said not only the patient, but also the caregiver and spouse needed t o be support ed.
“There is nothing that can prepare you for this disease. Not only is your loved one no longer the person they were, but friends may also disappear. The caregiver feels trapped with the p atient and misses the c ompanionship …”
Dr B ond said mos t people w ho de velop Alzheimer’s do so when they’re retired and many are financially underprepared f or r etirement.
The most recent update of the Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor found more than a third of working South Africans have no provision for their r etirement at all.
A person with socalled dread diseases such as strokes, heart at tacks or canc er is paid out upon diagnosis, but with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s this p ayout is made w hen a c ertain level of disability is reached, such as no longer being able t o dri ve.
When initiall y diagnosed with a de generative disease, the p atient may s till ha ve a f airly g ood quality of lif e f or a long time.
The severe illness benefit kicks in at a later stage, when families are taking physical and emotional strain and need the help of a carer or a specialised home — a c ost that is unlik ely to be c overed by a medical aid. — BE.