Can someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia get life insurance?
Dementia is a catch-all phrase for health conditions that affect the brain and cause symptoms like memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Being diagnosed with some form of dementia doesn’t disqualify you from getting life insurance. The most likely option is Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance, which guarantees coverage but has some limitations.
Most Canadians want to protect their family and provide for them financially, even if the worst were to happen. But how can someone do that when they’re dealing with a disease that might cause them to forget their family members entirely? This is one of the complex challenges faced by many people who become diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Nearly 600,000 people in Canada were living with dementia in 2020 (Alzheimer Society of Canada). By 2030, it’s expected that close to 1 million Canadians will be diagnosed with the disease. It’s no surprise, then, that 56% of Canadians are concerned about getting dementia. Especially when big-name stars like Bruce Willis have shown that this serious illness can affect anyone.
So, how can someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia make sure their family’s finances are protected no matter what? Life insurance is one way, but what kind of options do they qualify for? We’ll take a look at the details in this article.
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What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the brain and makes it hard for people to remember things, think clearly, and behave like they used to. It’s a difficult illness for both the person who has it and their family because it can make them forget important things. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble doing everyday tasks, remembering their own name, or even recognizing their friends and loved ones.
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, doesn’t have a cure right now, which makes it an especially tough illness for families to go through. It is a “progressive disease”, which means symptoms get worse over time.
People with dementia can be more likely to get other serious illnesses, like pneumonia. The disease can even lead to premature death. There are medicines that can help control the symptoms and slow down how fast the disease gets worse. This helps to give the person suffering from the disease a chance to live their life as normally as they can after being diagnosed.
What causes Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is thought to be caused by a buildup of too much protein in the brain, which disrupts normal brain activity. But no one knows for sure exactly why this happens to start with. Some experts think it may have something to do with someone’s genes, the environment they live in, and their lifestyle.
What is the life expectancy of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
People with Alzheimer’s disease are expected to live another 8-10 years after being diagnosed, depending on how old they were when they got the disease. But there are many cases of people living another 15-20 years with treatment.
Are Alzheimer’s and dementia the same thing?
Alzheimer’s and dementia are similar, but not exactly the same. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, which means it’s one of the many ways dementia can happen. People sometimes use the words “Alzheimer’s” and “dementia” to mean the same thing, but Alzheimer’s is considered one of the more serious types of dementia.
What is dementia?
Dementia is not actually a specific disease on its own. Rather, it’s an umbrella term for brain-related health issues that affect things like memory and reasoning. When someone has dementia, it means their brain doesn’t work as well as it used to. They might have trouble remembering things, thinking clearly, or figuring out solutions to problems.
Quick facts about dementia
1. It’s often hereditary, meaning it’s usually passed down from parent or grandparent to child. But not always.
2. It usually affects people age 65 or older. Early-onset dementia can affect people as young as 40 years old, but it’s pretty rare.
3. There are multiple types of dementia. Some of the most common types are:
- Alzheimer’s disease: Most people with dementia are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In this case, an unusual amount of protein in the brain prevents it from working properly.
- Vascular dementia: This type of dementia happens when there’s not enough blood flowing to the brain. It can happen after a stroke, which also happens when not enough blood flows to the brain. Vascular dementia affects memory and can also affect physical coordination.
- Lewy body dementia: Like Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia is also caused by too much protein in the brain. But its symptoms are different. It can also cause memory loss, hallucinations, and trouble with physical movement.
- Frontotemporal dementia: This type of dementia affects the front part of the brain. Instead of memory loss like other forms of dementia, this type can cause changes in someone’s personality and behaviour.
Can you get life insurance if you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Yes, a person with dementia can still get life insurance, even if they have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s tough when someone has a serious illness like this, and it can be emotional for them and their family. But the good news is there are usually choices for life insurance, even in the most severe situations.
The exact type of insurance policy someone with a serious illness can get depends on their unique circumstances. Life insurance companies will want to know:
- Your current age
- How old you were when you were diagnosed
- How many months/years it’s been since you were diagnosed
- How severe your illness is
- What kind of treatment you’re taking
- Your family history (for instance, do you have relatives who had dementia or passed away as a result of the disease?)
Most people with dementia will qualify for Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance, which we’ll talk about more in the section below. Although, someone a bit younger and in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia, may have more coverage options than someone whose illness has already reached an advanced stage. It all depends.
It’s best that you speak with a licensed insurance advisor who can review your situation and recommend the life insurance options that would match your budget and needs.
What kind of life insurance can someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia get?
A person with dementia may have to choose Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance. But let’s look at the three most common types of coverage and whether each would be feasible for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
1. Traditional Life Insurance
This is the standard life insurance that most people get. But someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia likely will not qualify for it. This kind of insurance asks a lot of health-related questions and might even need you to go through a medical exam.
Many companies will not give regular life insurance to someone who already has a serious disease. Or, if they do approve the application, they may give a rating, which means they would ask for much more money than usual for a life insurance policy.
Based on our in-house research and our experience working with more than 30 of Canada’s best life insurance companies, many providers will not give regular life insurance to someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. But, thankfully, this is not the only option.
2. No Medical Life Insurance
A no-medical or simplified issue life insurance policy is a common option for people with serious pre-existing conditions, meaning a health issue someone has before they apply for life insurance. These policies do not ask you to take a medical exam, and they have fewer health questions than regular life insurance does. They’re also more likely to accept people with health issues. But people with dementia may not qualify for it.
Even though non-medical insurance is more flexible, there’s still a chance the company might say no to someone’s application. Or, if they say yes, there’s still a chance that they might not offer as much coverage or for as long of a time period.
When we assessed the eligibility criteria for Canadian life insurance providers of no medical life insurance, many were unwilling to accept people diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. But hope is not lost. If the application for no medical insurance gets denied, there’s one more option to consider…
3. Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance
Guaranteed acceptance or guaranteed issue life insurance is just like it sounds – it guarantees that you will get insurance coverage. It does not ask any medical questions, so you’ll definitely be approved. However, even though the name sounds good, this type of policy has some downsides you need to know about:
- Price. It’s by far the most expensive form of life insurance of the three options discussed in this article.
- Survival period. It also has a two-year waiting period where anyone who’s approved has to live for at least two years after the policy starts. Otherwise, the company will not pay the death benefit to the insured person’s loved ones if they pass away within the first 24 months. Although, they may give back the premiums that had been paid up until that point.
- Limited coverage. Even though you may be approved easily, you’ll have fewer options for how much insurance you can get. For example, if a company only agrees to provide $50k in coverage, you might have to buy multiple policies from different providers to get as much coverage as you need. This can end up being fairly costly.
- Limited type of policy. There are two main types of life insurance: term or permanent. Term lasts for a specific number of years while permanent lasts for the rest of your life. Term life insurance is much more affordable. But with some guaranteed acceptance policies, you can only get permanent life insurance.
- No riders. Traditional life insurance can often allow extra add-ons called “life insurance riders“ that allow you to get more coverage for more things. But guaranteed acceptance policies do not have this option.
This type of policy may be the only possible life insurance for seniors with dementia because they’ll definitely be approved. If you’d like to speak to an expert who knows the ins and outs of the industry and can give insight into the different options, you can always contact us. We’re happy to provide tailored advice that will help you make the right choice for your family.
Is Alzheimer’s or dementia covered by existing life insurance?
Yes, if someone already has life insurance, their policy will cover death caused by dementia, like Alzheimer’s. So, if they were to pass away because of dementia, their loved ones would still receive the money from the insurance policy. Insurance companies consider it a natural death, so they would pay out the death benefit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will getting diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia affect life insurance prices?
It depends on whether you already have life insurance or not. If you already have a life insurance policy and you’re diagnosed with a form of dementia after your policy is already active, your life insurance premium costs will not be affected. One of the great things about term or permanent life policies is that once your coverage starts, your price is locked in for however long your policy lasts. Your insurance provider cannot increase the price later on.
If you are diagnosed with some form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease or some other form, that will affect what type of coverage you can get and your price. Guaranteed acceptance policies and no-medical policies are both more expensive than standard policies. And even regular insurance policies with a rating cost much more than usual.
So, someone with Alzheimer’s would be charged a higher price to get new insurance no matter which option they are approved for. But the silver lining is that they can still get peace of mind in being able to provide for their family’s financial future.
How much does life insurance cost?
Life insurance premiums depend on several factors:
- Smoking status
- Current health status
- Medical history
Because of this, rates can fluctuate a lot. In general, life insurance premiums are most affordable for young, healthy people who do not smoke. And, they’re more affordable for women than men, because women have longer life expectancies.
This is one of the main reasons why we encourage Canadians to sign up for life insurance when they are young and healthy — it’s the best way to get the lowest possible rates and keep them locked in for years no matter what happens down the line.
How much life insurance should someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia get?
In general, you should get 10-12 times your annual income in life insurance coverage at the very least. But, it also depends on what you plan to use your death benefit for. For example, someone with a serious disease like dementia might use life insurance for planning end-of-life expenses such as funeral costs. Meanwhile, someone with young children might use their policy for making sure their children are provided for until they reach adulthood. So, the right amount of coverage will vary.
But here are some factors you should consider:
- Financial obligations. Do you need your policy to cover outstanding debt like a mortgage, student loans, or credit card debt?
- Income replacement. Does your spouse or family need your income to continue living comfortably? If so, think about how much money they would need from your life insurance to replace your lost income.
- Estate planning. Do you want your life insurance to be there as something of a nest egg for future generations? This applies more to permanent life policies than term, but it can still affect how much coverage would work best.
Another thing to keep in mind is that policies that aren’t regular insurance, like guaranteed acceptance or non-medical, can offer lower coverage amounts than traditional life insurance policies. Most of us dream of being able to get $1 million in life insurance coverage for our family. But you may only realistically be able to qualify for $50,000, depending on what type of life insurance you get and how much coverage the company agrees to give you.
You can use our life insurance needs calculator to help you pinpoint how much coverage would work for your situation. Or, you can chat with our friendly advisors to find out.
Is Alzheimer’s or dementia considered a mental illness?
No, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not considered mental illnesses. Even though they affect the brain and how we think, they are different from mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Doctors treat them as separate conditions because they are caused by physical changes in the brain, rather than by chemical imbalances in the brain like mental illnesses are.
Is Alzheimer’s or dementia considered a disability?
It depends on factors like how bad the dementia is and how well treatment is going. Some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, could be seen as a disability if the symptoms make it hard for someone to do daily activities normally.
This is also the case for disability insurance, which replaces a part of your income if you become disabled in either the short or long-term. Each company has their own rules for what counts as a disability. So, companies will look at each individual situation to decide if they will cover dementia or not. But this is only for people who already have disability insurance before they get dementia.
Someone who already has dementia would probably not be able to get new disability insurance. Most companies would tell them no.
Is Alzheimer’s or dementia considered a terminal or critical illness?
Yes, Alzheimer’s and dementia are considered critical illnesses and are covered under some critical illness insurance policies. This type of insurance pays out a tax-free lump sum if you are diagnosed with a serious and life-threatening disease. But not all illnesses are covered — it depends on the specific insurance policy you have. Some plans cover up to 26 major illnesses, while other plans and riders cover fewer.
But dementia is not usually seen as a terminal illness. This is because people who are diagnosed with dementia can often live for decades longer. So, the disease is usually not covered under policies for terminal illnesses, such as the Accelerated Death Benefit rider. This rider provides a portion of the death benefit early if the insured person is diagnosed with an illness that leaves them with less than 12 months to live. Alzheimer’s, thankfully, is usually not that severe.
But, someone who already has the illness may not be approved for critical illness insurance or terminal illness riders. Or, if they are approved, their policy might list Alzheimer’s or dementia as an exclusion that will not be covered.
Get one-on-one help
Not everyone’s situation will be the same, so there’s no one-size-fits-all coverage option for someone who has been diagnosed with Alzhemier’s or dementia. The best way to get the life insurance you and your family need is to speak with one of our licensed advisors who can help you come up with a customized solution for your coverage needs.
The information above is intended for informational purposes only and is based on PolicyAdvisor’s own views, which are subject to change without notice. This content is not intended and should not be construed to constitute financial or legal advice. PolicyAdvisor accepts no responsibility for the outcome of people choosing to act on the information contained on this website. PolicyAdvisor makes every effort to include updated, accurate information. The above content may not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, termination, and other provisions of the policies described, some of which may be material to the policy selection. Please refer to the actual policy documents for complete details. In case of any discrepancy, the language in the actual policy documents will prevail. All rights reserved.
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- Alzheimer’s is the most serious form of dementia
- Someone with dementia/Alzheimer’s can still qualify for Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
- Dementia may also be covered under disability insurance and critical illness insurance, depending on the policy