According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. As we age, it is natural to experience a decline in mental function but, though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging. People may face a decline in memory, learning, concentration, or language. People with severe forms of dementia have an opportunity to apply for disability benefits.
What is dementia?
Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a term used to describe difficulty remembering, thinking, or making decisions that interferes with a person’s ability to engage in everyday activities, including work.
Causes of dementia
Dementia is caused by damaged nerve cell connections in the brain. It can affect people differently and cause different symptoms depending on the area of the brain that is damaged. Dementias are often grouped by common diagnostic markers, such as where damaging proteins are deposited in the brain or based on the part of the brain that has been affected. Reaction to medications or vitamin deficiencies sometimes cause symptoms that appear to be dementia but resolve with treatment or elimination of the thing causing a reaction. Dementia symptoms mainly occur in the elderly but can start at an early age. People experiencing symptoms should undergo neuropsychological evaluation from a qualified medical professional for a diagnosis.
How to qualify for disability benefits
If you cannot work for a year or more because of symptoms of dementia, you can apply for disability benefits. If you do not have a qualifying work history that would entitle you to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but are experiencing financial hardship, you may apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in place of disability benefits. If you have not reached the age of retirement, then you can apply for disability benefits due to dementia. Your disability benefits convert to retirement benefits when you reach the prescribed age of retirement.
Eligibility requirements for disability benefits
The SSA has published an official disability listing, known as the Blue Book, that outlines disabilities and criteria that, if met, will entitle applicants to a grant of disability benefits. You should consider filing an application for disability benefits if your medical conditions have made it so that you are no longer able to maintain gainful employment. The listing includes neurocognitive disorders criteria that may entitle dementia patients to receive disability benefits. Medical evidence should demonstrate the following symptoms:
- The person suffers from short-term memory loss, which may reduce their ability to learn and remember
- Having a hard time planning a situation
- Having difficulty in recalling words and using them properly
- Poor concentration and difficulty being attentive when listening to others
- Social behavior may not be appropriate as they cannot gauge situations appropriately
- Lack of physical coordination
The SSA will investigate whether symptoms have caused limited functioning. They will judge whether your limitation is extreme or moderate depending on set criteria, including:
- Whether you can understand instructions, learn new things, and apply new knowledge to the tasks assigned
- Able to complete tasks at a reasonable pace
- Awareness of normal hazards, taking appropriate precautions, knowing how to adapt to changes, having practical personal skills
- Able to interact with others
You need to provide medical evidence to show that all these factors affect your ability to work because of dementia. The SSA will want records of:
- Psychological testing
- Neuropsychological testing
- Intelligence testing
- Records of repeated visits to hospitals and the tests conducted
- Evidence of hospitalization
The SSA will conduct a thorough review of the statements and medical documentation that you provide to demonstrate a diagnosis and symptoms. After which, they will decide whether you should be granted disability benefits for Dementia. Contact a reputable attorney today with experience representing people with disabilities throughout the disability claims process.