A condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease has been found to be more widespread than expected
When it comes to the onset of mental health conditions, financial advisors are in a good position to both sound the alarm and help set up any measures needed to ensure that their clients’ assets are protected. With that in mind, advisors are warned to watch out for a newly isolated type of dementia.
The disease, which was covered in a study published by the journal Brain earlier this year, is called limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, or LATE. The condition features many of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, a specific form of dementia that currently afflicts over half a million Canadians and is growing at a rate of 25,000 new cases each year, according to Alzheimer Society Canada.
As its name suggests, LATE tends to manifest late in people’s lives; while Alzheimer’s diagnoses tend to be made when patients are in their 60s, LATE symptoms tend to arise among people in their 80s. Researchers have also estimated that the disease may occur in as many as a quarter of adults past the age of 80.
“The similarities in the two result from the fact that both types of dementia target the hippocampus first,” explained Amy Florian, CEO of Corgenius, in a column for WealthManagement.com. Because of that, patients living with either disease have trouble funnelling short-term experience into long-term memory.
While the two conditions have the same devastating symptom, they have different underlying mechanisms. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the presence of two proteins, beta amyloid and tau, which kill brain cells and causes brain shrinkage. By contrast, brain cell death in LATE sufferers is caused by another protein, TDP-43, which acts through a different molecular mechanism.
“[D]rugs that are proven to temporarily slow the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms … may do nothing at all for LATE,” Florian noted.
With that in mind, she outlined several recommendations for advisors to protect their clients who may be at risk. First, she suggested that advisors with regular newsletters to clients consider apprising them of the new development as part of their ongoing education.
She also urged advisors to meet with directors of local memory-care facilities. Any clients concerned about an elderly relative’s cognitive decline can then be introduced to the various heads of such facilities to get a sense of how such places operate, what their patient-to-staff ratio is, their turnover rate, and how much their services cost.
“Encourage your clients to get into clinical trials,” she added, noting that such trials may include those already living with the dementia and young, healthy people whom scientists may want to monitor over the course of their lives.
Those who don’t wish to participate may also consider contributing money toward research that could lead to better treatments, preventive measures, or cures.