Weathering the Cost of Alzheimer's Care

This fall, Jibbr shares another great feature from guest blogger, Harry Cline, creator of New Caregiver...enjoy!

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease means your loved one will likely need care for years of his or her life. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average life expectancy after an Alzheimer's diagnosis is eight to 10 years, with some people surviving 20 years or more. As much as we cherish those years with our loved one, the cost of care can grow astronomical.

When you're caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease, you have to consider a variety of costs, including:

  • Diagnosis and ongoing treatment for Alzheimer's disease

  • Medical care for non-Alzheimer's disease health conditions

  • Preventive care, vision care, and dental care

  • Prescription drugs

  • Aging-in-place safety modifications in the home

  • Medical equipment

  • In-home health care

  • In-home personal and household care

  • Residential care services

While health care expenses are considerable, a large portion is covered as long as your loved one has adequate medical insurance. Following an Alzheimer's diagnosis is a good time to review Medicare coverage and see if supplemental coverage is needed.

Original Medicare doesn’t have prescription drug coverage or out-of-pocket maximums, so if that’s the only insurance the patient has you’ll want to add more.

A Medicare Advantage plan like the one offered by Humana may be a better fit. Medicare Advantage plans have out-of-pocket limits so you know the maximum amount you'll have to spend in a year. They usually also offer additional coverage for prescription drugs, dental care, and/or vision care and have a 24/7 nursing advice line.

Unfortunately, private health insurance and Medicare don't cover long-term care services. Medicaid does cover long-term care, but not everyone qualifies for the means-tested program. Medicaid also isn't accepted everywhere, which leaves patients with limited options for long-term care providers.

If you want the option to choose a high-quality care provider for your loved one, you’ll need to be prepared to pay for services independently.

This lack of coverage makes long-term care services the greatest expense that Alzheimer's patients must content with by far. And at around $50,000 per year for full-time home health care and $60,000 for memory care, there’s no doubt it’s a financial burden on many families. If your loved one has a long-term care insurance policy or a whole life insurance policy that can be cashed in, this is a good time to do so. Otherwise, consider tapping into personal resources like:

  • Income. Combining your loved one's Social Security income with contributions from family can make long-term care costs manageable.

  • Real estate. Consider moving your loved one in with family and selling their home. If the home can’t be sold, such as if a spouse is still living there, a reverse mortgage is an option.

  • Your own time. By caring for your loved one personally, you can drastically reduce long-term care costs. Family caregiving can be supplemented with low-cost options like adult day care, check-ins, and respite care to reduce the toll on caregivers.

While selling real estate or sacrificing time and income aren't ideal options, families must be resourceful to afford dementia care. According to Caregiver Homes, the average out-of-pocket cost for dementia care is a whopping $61,522.

It’s important you don’t try to take on too much yourself.

Stress and burnout are serious problems that affect the well-being of family caregivers. Caregiving also has a financial impact that affects your own children, especially if you have to leave a job and lose benefits to become a full-time caregiver. As you seek to afford high-quality care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, don’t forget about your own needs. By balancing both, you can achieve the best long-term solution for everyone. 

About the Author:
Harry Cline is creator of and author of the upcoming book,The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.