Today, there are an estimated 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. And while most people associate the disease with old age, the fact is there are 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 living with it today. As with all forms of the disease, early-onset Alzheimer’s is a progressive, terminal disease, which cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
Since the onset can occur in people as early as in their 30s and 40s it often strikes during an individual’s prime working years, and as the disease progresses it prevents gainful employment. As a result, individuals are coming to grips with a devastating diagnosis all while losing employment and the salary and benefits that come with being employed. These individuals and their caregivers then must figure out how they will pay for their care.
Thankfully, since 2010 the Social Security Administration (SSA) has helped these individuals by adding Alzheimer’s disease to its Compassionate Allowances Initiative. The initiative identifies debilitating diseases and medical conditions that meet the SSA’s disability standards for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This allows for faster payment of Social Security benefits to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, mixed-dementia and Primary Progressive Aphasia.
The Alzheimer’s Association actively worked with the SSA for the inclusion of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and advocating on behalf of individuals with early-onset (younger-onset) Alzheimer’s disease. As the SSA was considering this decision, the Alzheimer’s Association provided comments to the administration and commissioner, held numerous meetings with SSA staff to advocate for the inclusion of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and Alzheimer’s Association CEO Harry Johns testified during the SSA’s public hearing about the inclusion of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Since then we have worked closely with the SSA in support of the implementation of this Initiative nationwide and to educate our community about this benefit.
And since its implementation it has had a profound impact on the Alzheimer’s community, helping thousands of families including Tom and Julie Allen. Tom was looking for a way to help manage the costs of Julie’s Alzheimer’s care, since his retirement and two part-time jobs were not enough to cover the large costs of Alzheimer’s disease. Through working with the Alzheimer’s Association and the SSA he was able to secure for Julie the SSDI benefit.
Social Security benefits are very important to individuals with early-onset who are unable to work and have no other source of income. At the Alzheimer’s Association we hear from family caregivers about the challenges they face paying for care. As was the case with Tom, the financial complications and solution finding falls to the caregiver. That is just one of the reasons why we celebrate November as National Family Caregiver Month and we take time to honor the 15 million caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s disease.
To learn more about how SSDI works and if it may be available to you, visit www.alz.org/SSDI or call our 24/7 Call Center at 1-800-272-3900.