Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness that occurs due to degeneration of the brain and is the most common form of dementia. There currently is no cure for the disease, and in spite of the billions of dollars going to care for those who suffer from it every year, less is spent on research to learn more about it.
While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be devastating, it’s important to remember that it encompasses a whole spectrum, and an early diagnosis can help you and your family prepare for the future. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand the costs associated with treatment and what your options are for future care.
Why Are Alzheimer’s Care Costs So High?According to a recently published Alzheimer’s Association report, 2017 marks a milestone in that it will take more than a quarter of a trillion dollars to cover the care of individuals who live with Alzheimer’s disease.
Because there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, individuals must consider long-term Alzheimer’s care options, whether that includes help from a family member or moving into a memory care facility. Although it might seem more affordable to have a loved one take care of someone with Alzheimer’s, the costs can still add up. Those with Alzheimer’s visit the hospital more often for their other ailments than those who have the same ailments but no Alzheimer’s, for example.
Family members who become caregivers also have to take into account the added cost of caring for their loved one as well as the impact it has on their ability to work. Many must take cut their hours at work or quit their jobs entirely to devote proper Alzheimer’s care to their loved one, the Alzheimer’s Association report found.
Covering the ExpenseWho is covering the cost of care for older adults with Alzheimer’s if it’s now surpassing a quarter of a trillion dollars per year? Medicare and Medicaid actually foot over half of the bill at a combined 68 percent – if the person with Alzheimer’s is covered by Medicare or Medicaid, that is – but 22 percent of the costs still come out of pocket.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the cost of hiring home health aides is for someone with Alzheimer’s is about $20 per hour, and a semi-private or private room in a nursing home costs anywhere from $82,000 to more than $92,000 annually. Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid can help in covering some of these costs, but that’s not taking into account the costs of personal care supplies, prescription medications and other expenses such as adding safety modifications to a home.
Given the foggy future of medical care and coverage and the increased frequency of hospital visits for Alzheimer’s patients, it’s understandable that Alzheimer’s care costs would concern any person at risk for developing the disease or ending up caring for a loved one with a diagnosis. That’s why early preparation is so key.
Preparing For the FuturePart of any thorough financial planning for your and your loved ones’ golden years should include the cost of Alzheimer’s or dementia care. Even those who don’t think they’re at risk should consider making a plan for the unexpected, including talking with loved ones about their end-of-life wishes. Some items to carefully consider include
- Deciding on a Power of Attorney. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease with no cure. It’s crucial to decide who you want to make decisions in your stead when you are unable to do so yourself, whether you one day develop the disease or not. Choose someone you trust wholeheartedly, and include them in your planning for your end-of-life care.
- Creating a Savings Account for End-of-Life Care. If costs worry you, it may be a good idea to start setting aside a little money regularly now to help cover any long-term Alzheimer’s care, whether a loved one takes you in or you live in a memory care community.
- Estate Planning. If you’re like the majority of U.S. adults who have put off planning how your estate will be divided when you’re gone, there’s no time like the present to sit down and make a plan. You can even specify how you want your loved ones to care for you if you become unable to do so yourself, taking that difficult decision off the shoulders of your family members.