Will I end up with dementia?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Molsonsmom asked...

I guess this is kind of self centered, but watching my mother's mental capacity decline more and more each day, I have to wonder what the odds are that I might develop this deblilitating disease. Every time I can't remember a name or a word doesn't come to mind quickly, I get so upset and just can't help but wonder if I'm next. I'm an only child with no kids of my own. I have 2 step children, both adults, but I certainly would never expect them to care for me if I end up like my mother. I'm a nurse, so I've seen my share of families trying to deal with a family member's dementia. Like I said, I know it's self centered to think this way, but I just can't help it.

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Dear MolsonsMom:

Thanks for your question, it's one that is often asked, and I can provide you with the same answer I've always given.

Only the Good Lord knows for certain if your mother's mental debilitation, assuming it is a diagnosed dementia, will be something you inherit.

Today, medical technology is working on early testing procedures that will provide with reasonable certainty the answer to your question. That's the good news. The bad news is that even if you knew for certain, by testing, there is still no cure and few medicines to adequately treat and truly slow the progression of the disease.

You did not provide your age in your question, but please understand that some loss of memory is absolutely normal as part of the aging process. It usually manifests as forgetfulness of names or dates, and often those are recalled later, and that too is normal. I'd be much more concerned if after forgetting where you placed your cell phone or car keys, that you found them but couldn't recall what they are to be used for.

My advice to you is to take a breath and relax about your concerns of inheriting your mother's disease. Instead, based on your personal situation, think about investing in long term care insurance and establishing relationships with people you trust to step in to help you if and when you ever need their help.

This can be accomplished by sitting down with a good elder law attorney to establish your advance directives and an estate plan. Doing so will make certain that you can be cared for in a manner you'd choose. Name a trusted confidant as your Healthcare Surrogate, and either that person or another whom you trust, as your Financial Surrogate.

Those steps, a long term care insurance policy, and estate plan with advance directives and surrogates named will assure you that your wishes, even if you cannot articulate them at some time in the future - and that may or may not ever be the case - are in place.

Irrespective of your mother's condition, you need to understand that as of today, if you, or anyone, lives to the age of 85 and older, you have about a 50/50 chance of developing dementia, and most likely in the form of Alzheimer's disease.

For now, don't dwell on the part of your future that is beyond your control. Instead, invest some time in putting the things in place that will guarantee you your dignity, proper care and a clear voice in controlling your future.