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Jack Hanna is Battling Dementia and Millions of Everyday People

Dementia Affects Famous and Everyday People

Jack Hanna, wildlife expert, author, guest TV personality, and TV producer known for starring in shows like Animal Adventures, Voices for Wildlife, and Into the Wild, is retiring from work and public life because he has dementia. Known as “Jungle” Jack, he left the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where he served as director, then director emeritus, for 42 years in December 2020.

His family most recently posted on his verified Twitter account explaining his condition to his many fans. “Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease,” further stating, “His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated.”

Jack Hanna lives a healthy, active lifestyle and is currently age 74. Let that sink in.

Worldwide the statistics are not good, and they are not in favor of the average aging American. The Alzheimer’s Association website states that one in three seniors currently dies with Alzheimer’s or some other dementia. In the absence of a medical breakthrough to prevent, slow, or cure Alzheimer’s disease, the predictive numbers will only increase.

By 2050 more than 15 percent, or 12.7 million Americans age 65 or more, will be diagnosed with dementia. There will be still more elderly Americans living with the disease undiagnosed by a medical professional, often due to poverty associated with lack of proper medical care. Living with dementia is not only a challenge to an individual’s daily life, but it is also expensive. When it comes to footing the costly care bill, where does that leave our country, our health care system, our caregivers, our families, and you?

Alzheimer’s and other dementias’ problems are overwhelming in the larger sense, so control what you can. As an individual, create a plan responsive to the changing needs of Alzheimer’s care should you receive the diagnosis. Women, more than men and certain ethnic groups, tend to be hit hardest with the disease. If you fall into these categories, pay special attention to the onset of early symptoms because, as in all diseases, early diagnosis is key to more successful intervention. All individuals should speak with their doctors honestly about any cognitive challenges they experience as they age. The Alzheimer’s Association has a checklist of symptoms that you can use as a starting point.

The early, middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s disease all require different degrees of caregiving as behaviors change in each stage. The one truism is that your caregiving situation will require a team providing support on many levels. Look for community and online community resources. The Alzheimer’s Association also has a Cognitive Impairment Care Planning Toolkit to help define and deliver person-centered care planning.

One of the earliest challenges you will face after a dementia diagnosis is developing or adapting your existing estate plan and advance directives that speak to financial and medical issues. You may have to move to be nearer family members, which can upend your will and other legal documents as they are executed by state authority. Adapting your legal plans early on can protect any challenges by heirs regarding your mental fitness and any estate plan changes. In truth, funding care for a dementia diagnosis can drain your assets to the point where generational wealth no longer exists for your inheritors. You cannot afford to have family challenges to your estate, particularly when you are no longer capable of understanding the scope of the issues due to your dementia.

There is a lot to take in, and much to get done should you receive an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. Even if you do not fall into a high-risk category for dementia, you ignore the possibility of the disease at your peril. Even the seemingly healthiest and most advantaged persons like Jack Hanna can experience the diagnosis and have the disease attack swiftly.

We help families create plans that address long-term care concerns, financial issues such as how to pay for care, and tax issues. Many clients of ours have a dementia diagnosis and we understand the challenges that come with such a diagnosis. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your concerns and your wishes so that they can be properly documented for you and your loved ones.

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Also read one of our previous Blogs at:

Do Farmers Have a Higher Chance of Getting Dementia?


Do Farmers Have a Higher Chance of Getting Dementia?

Do Farmers Have a Higher Chance of Getting Dementia?

With traits such as hearing loss, depression and social isolation seen in both agriculture workers and those who suffer with dementia, University of Iowa College of Public Health assistant professor, Kanika Arora sought to determine if there was a connection.

In the first of its kind to the U.S. study, researchers used previous data from the Health and Retirement Study to discover that agriculture workers scored lower on tests related to memory, attention, and processing speed, according to CBS 2 Iowa’s recent article entitled “Recent study shows agriculture workers have a greater chance of having dementia.”

The Iowa study shows that agricultural workers have lower resistance against the effects of dementia, compared to people in professional or technical jobs. Although the onset of the disease may be delayed due to higher resistance to damage to the brain among professional and technical workers, the rate of decline may be faster due to the greater accumulation of brain pathology, Arora explained.

The University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study is a longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of approximately 20,000 people in America, supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration.

With hundreds of farmers calling Iowa home, and many working past the age of standard retirement, it raised concerns for a possible delay in a dementia diagnosis.

“As far as Iowans are concerned, this is important for two reasons. How to remain productive on the farm and how to maintain safety given memory loss, language problems and other unpredictable behaviors that come with dementia,” said Arora.

Researchers cannot directly examine the role of pesticide exposure to dementia, but previous studies on the amount of exposure to agricultural workers show the same test scores. Arora hopes future research is done on this connection.

The results of the study, recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal Gerontology: Social Sciences, can help researchers develop effective interventions to protect older farmers.

The researchers could not attribute the association to hearing impairment or depression—factors independently linked to both agriculture and dementia—the impact of pesticide exposure among agricultural workers may warrant further study, they said.

Reference: CBS 2 Iowa (Jan. 31, 2021) “Recent study shows agriculture workers have a greater chance of having dementia”

Read more related articles at:

Rural dementia: We need to talk

Study shows working in agriculture poses higher risk of developing dementia

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

What Do Farmers Need to Create an Estate Plan?

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