A 2015 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reported that Americans with Alzheimer’s disease spend more on out-of-pocket expenses than any other form of illness. The average outlay for Alzheimer’s care over the last five years of life average more than $66,000, more than twice for cancer care (approximately $32,000), and nearly $30,000 higher, on average, for out-of-pocket expenses for diabetes or cardiovascular care. And while Medicare will cover inpatient hospital care, as well as physician fees and various expenses for those 65 and older, it does not cover the cost of long-term custodial care, a key factor for people who suffer from dementia and require around-the-clock attention.
Consequently, the costs of Alzheimer’s care can add up quickly. That’s why it’s so important to understand your care options and establish a financial plan of action.
What are you paying for?
It’s essential to know what your loved one’s needs are if you’re to get a handle on how much you can expect to spend. Generally, common costs associated with Alzheimer’s care include ongoing treatment for symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as doctor’s visits. Then there are costs for medical equipment, making safety modifications in your home, the ongoing cost of prescription medication, care supplies, in-home care/residential care services and adult day care. The magnitude of each of these costs may vary depending on individual cases and where you live, but these tend to be among the most common care concerns for Alzheimer’s patients, their families and caregivers.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, if a loved one with Alzheimer’s requires nursing home care, typical costs would be $235 a day for a semi-private room, $267 a day for a private room, and more than $3,700 a month for services in an assisted living facility. For those patients living with family, a home health aide costs an average of $22 an hour, while adult day care services average about $70 a day. There are many online resources that can help you find affordable Alzheimer’s care options.
Once you have an idea of the costs involved, you can begin outlining a financial plan to help make the most of your assets and resources. Financial planners and estate planning experts can help structure an efficient plan, identify tax deductions and locate potential sources of revenue and explain your rights and options under Medicare and Medigap. It will be helpful to collect as much personal financial as possible, including monthly bills, retirement benefit summaries, mortgage paperwork, Social Security information and investment portfolios.
As you research Medicare options, consider Medicare Advantage plans, which provide coverage that parallels Medicare Parts A and B. Benefits include caregiver support, prescriptions, dental and vision and provide round-the-clock access to a nursing advice hotline.
Begin working on a financial plan as soon as possible after a loved one’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Once you have cost and asset information together, assess your likely total out-of-pocket costs. From there, you can determine what sources are available to help you pay for these expenses, and whether it will be necessary to seek out something like a reverse mortgage or to even sell your home and move into something smaller.
As you go through this process, assess all insurance options, quantify belongings and personal property (as potential sources of revenue), and investigate your eligibility for government programs that can help defray the cost of ongoing Alzheimer’s care. A tax expert or financial adviser can help determine if there are tax breaks that can help your situation, and if there are financial aid programs or packages for which you are eligible and make sense given your circumstances.
Alzheimer’s care is costly and it can place an overwhelming strain on your finances. It’s essential that you understand all of your financial options, so seek the knowledge and experience of a financial planning expert and begin the planning process as soon as possible.
June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is the author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.