With the advancement in modern medicine, life expectancy of people also increased. According to a World Health Organization report published in 2020, the life expectancy of Hong Kong men and women are 82.7 years and 88.1 years respectively, surpassing Japan to be the area enjoying the most longevity in the world.
This said, it is not all good news to live a longer life, because longer life does not necessary equate good health. As a person gets older, the chance of suffering from chronic illness and degenerative illness also increases. Hong Kong as an aging society is now facing problems associated with medical conditions of old ages, with dementia being the disease arising most concern. This is because dementia not only causes medical problems, but it also creates caring problems and other social issues. This is why it is important for us to understand how dementia can affect you and your family, and what are the hidden risks associated with it.
Incurability makes patient care doubly important
One of the most significant risks associated with dementia is accidents. Just reading the news, it is not uncommon to see reports of accidents associated with patients suffering from dementia, such as an elderly found wandering on a dangerous highway, or a household fire caused by a demented person forgotten to turn off the stove.
To date, there is no complete cure for dementia. The management of dementia mainly focus on preventing deterioration on one hand, and caring the demented person and ensuring his safety on the other.
Cost on care far outstrips treatment fees
The amount of resources and money required to achieve this is something that cannot be taken lightly.
On the medical expense front, it could be divided into drug related and non-drug related expenses. In general, the drug cost for dementia is not too expensive. As for non-drug expenses, such as doctor consultation, occupational therapy and cognition training, it is around the range of HKD800 to 1500 per visit, which is still affordable by many families.
As for non-medical expenses, the amount is much higher. As a person’s dementia deteriorates, his ability of self-care also decreases, leading to the need of assistance for many activities of daily living, including bathing and toileting. At this point, very often a home helper is needed, and many times, a family member may even need to quit work to help care for the patient, causing significant financial strain to the household. Some families may prefer to send the patient to an elderly care home, and a decent care home in Hong Kong can cost up to HKD 20K to 30K per month, with all kinds of miscellaneous charges on top. This is quite a heavy burden, even for middle class family.
To avoid such conundrum for yourself or your loved ones, it is always better to get prepared in advance. When selecting insurance products, the most important point is to select a critical illness product that covers dementia as a major illness. It would be even better if the product can offer a continuous annuity benefit, to help alleviate the caregiver’s financial concern so that you can enjoy a peace of mind.
The above content is reviewed by Dr Alexander Chiu - Chief Medical Officer of AXA Hong Kong and Macau
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