When my 83-year-old dad was first diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, the second most common form of degenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s, I didn’t really believe it. I had seen some signs of forgetfulness, but I thought these were just symptoms of getting older.

My dad practiced orthodontics for 30 years before retiring. How could it be that he couldn’t draw basic shapes, or place the hands of a clock so they showed a specific time, or answer easy questions about a simple story that was just read to him?

Sadly, a dementia diagnosis such as my dad’s is on the rise. By 2040, an estimated 11.6 million Americans will live with cognitive decline, affecting nearly all families, according to data from the Alzheimer’s Association.

And with each diagnosis, as I’ve learned over these past 18 months, comes sadness, fear of the unknown and unfathomable costs. Even for people like my parents, who were in a position to save enough for a comfortable retirement, the high cost of dementia care is still burdensome. They were among the lucky ones. For many people, it can be financially devastating.

To help shine a spotlight on the rising prevalence of dementia and help families better prepare for the financial risks associated with the disease, RBC Wealth Management-U.S. commissioned a study, Prepare for the expected, the financial impact of cognitive decline, from Aon.

The study found that the overall lifetime cost of dementia could often exceed $750,000. Prior to my father’s diagnosis, I would have scoffed at that figure. But now I understand how things can so quickly add up.

After a recent setback landed my dad in a hospital for a few days, the doctor recommended 24/7 care before my dad could be released. We had a service already set up to come to my parents’ home a day or so a week, but couldn’t find round-the-clock care on such short notice. Not only that, but the cost of full-time, in-home care is $40 an hour. Just do the math and your head will quickly start to spin!

So, my siblings, our spouses, my mom and I had a family meeting to try to figure out how we would make round-the-clock care work. Fortunately, the drug the doctor prescribed kicked in just a few days after my dad left the hospital and he regained mobility, eliminating the need for such full-time care.

However, that episode made it clear at some point in the near future, my parents would need to find a place that would provide a combination of independent living for my mom and memory care for my dad.

Such facilities are not only expensive, but the waiting list to get in is also extremely long. Our research brought us to that conclusion even before my dad’s hospital stay.

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