Financial Cost of Providing Care for Alzheimer's Disease
Care for any medical condition can be costly, but for Alzheimer’s disease the cost may be especially concerning. Depending on the level of impairment, care needs can vary over the course of the disease. In the early stage of the disease, an individual may not need very much care and may still be able to live independently. As the disease progresses, the impairment gets worse and the level of care will become more intensive, both in the amount of time assistance is needed and the level of assistance itself. There are different kinds of care a person with Alzheimer’s might need, as well – basic medical care, caregiver support, and potentially long-term care.1 These are all things to think about when planning for the costs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Costs of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, and as the disease gets worse, more costs may be incurred. There are still basic costs to consider in the earlier stages of the disease, and it’s helpful to keep the big picture in mind while remembering that costs can vary at different times, depending on the person’s general health, as well. Medical insurance or other care programs may cover some or part of these costs, but may not cover the costs in entirety.
Costs can include:2
- Ongoing medical treatment or therapies for Alzheimer’s-related symptoms
- Costs of diagnostic tests and evaluations
- Testing, treatment, or assistive devices for other medical conditions
- Home modifications to ensure safety
- Medication, both over-the-counter and prescription
- Personal care supplies
- Adult care program costs
- Home health aide costs
- Full-time residential care facility costs
Costs can vary widely depending on the geographical location and the person’s overall health, as well as how much medical insurance covers. There are also costs incurred from lost wages, if the person develops cognitive symptoms before retirement. In addition, if family members take on caregiving roles and give up their jobs or take the person for appointments and leave work to do so, those are also lost wages.
Putting a plan together
Once a diagnosis is made, it’s never too early to start financially planning for both short-term and long-term situations with Alzheimer’s disease. The person with Alzheimer’s and their family should meet and discuss financial and legal plans, and the kind of care the person desires. Things to consider when putting a plan for financial costs include making sure the caregiver has consent of the patient to talk about financial matters, power of attorney for the caregiver, regular bills that need to be paid, how insurance claims will be handled (and learn what is and is not covered under the insurance plan), any investment decisions, and how tax returns will be done.2 These are ongoing, regular financial decisions that will still need to be addressed, in addition to care costs.
Seeking out a professional financial counselor, as well as a lawyer who specializes in these kinds of situations, might be highly beneficial. This can be overwhelming, and each state can vary in what is allowed and what is necessary to have, and these professionals will be able to guide you through the process and provide ongoing assistance if needed.
Things to consider
The financial and personal costs of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s are not small, and can be intimidating – however, there are resources available, and they’re worth exploring. These resources can include:2
- Medical insurance, including government programs
- Disability insurance
- Life insurance and long-term care policies
- Social Security Disability Income (for those under 65)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veteran’s benefits
- Tax deductions
- Community resources that may offer free or reduced-cost care like respite care, meal delivery, visiting aides, and support groups
- Retirement benefits
Talking all of this over with a financial advisor can help you identify what resources might be available to you, and things you may not have thought of. It’s also worth talking with the person’s doctor or the financial office of the hospital where they receive care. Many times there are financial assistance programs or grants that people can apply for to help with medical costs.
The cost of Alzheimer’s can seem insurmountable, but it is manageable. The earlier a plan is made, the better.