Tips to Cope with the Financial Toll of Alzheimer’s Care

From family resources to untapped benefits, there are ways to ease the burden.


- Posted on Nov 22, 2019

A woman in her golden years spending time with her daughter in their home.

This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

It is no secret that caring for a loved one with dementia can present emotional and physical challenges. You know as a caregiver how difficult it can be to see your family member or close friend struggle with memory loss and handling familiar tasks. An additional challenge, however, is less openly discussed—the huge cost of care. This is an added concern for many families. 

The MetLife Mature Market Institute’s 2011 Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs revealed that:

· The national average hourly rates for home care workers is $19/hour.

· The national average daily rate for adult day services is $70.

· The national average monthly base rate in an assisted living community is $3,477.

· The national average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home is $239.

Specialized dementia services are often more costly. The bottom line is alarming. An early study of lifetime costs by R.L. Ernst and J.W. Hay suggested that families will pay $174,000 over time providing care, a figure that has certainly risen.

Although Alzheimer’s services are expensive, there is much your family can do to put funds that may already exist to the best possible uses and to search out additional financial sources that can make a major difference.

The following suggestions from Alzheimer’s care expert David Troxel can help guide you through:

· The most important thing at the outset is to evaluate family resources and funds. Ensure that your loved one’s legal and financial affairs are current and in order, that you know where various accounts and funds are located, and that a trusted party is given a durable power of attorney to handle finances. People who have dementia can make poor decisions and even fall prey to fraud, so you need to be vigilant in monitoring accounts and protecting remaining funds.

· Search out sources of help or untapped benefits. Veteran’s benefits, for example, can be life-savers for people who have served in the military. Contact the Veteran’s Administration for assistance. A good source of information regarding benefits is an online service provided by the National Council on Aging at www.benefitscheckup.org. This reputable site can help with resources related to everything from medications, health care, food, utilities and more.

· Consider consulting with a geriatric care manager, typically a nurse or social worker who charges an hourly fee to help family caregivers. This could be a great help in identifying various services and determining whether you are eligible for them.

· Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter to find out what useful services are offered. You may discover friendly visiting programs and home delivered meals, among others.

· Travel the continuum of care. Community based and home services are usually less costly than residential care. Day centers provide wonderful socialization for people who have dementia and are generally affordable. Beginning with in-home help every other day for four hours can give you a crucial break, while providing some stimulation and support to your loved one. If necessary, an assisted living memory care program is generally much less expensive than skilled nursing.

· Long-term care insurance is highly recommended for anyone who is concerned about the expense of long-term care. Many Baby Boomers are buying policies to plan ahead, but the policies are also available for older people. Keep in mind that when symptoms of dementia start, it is too late to buy a policy.

What if you’ve explored these options and still fall short? Unfortunately there are no easy answers, particularly since many local programs have closed in recent years with local and state government cutbacks. A family conversation may be in order to brainstorm about both people resources (those who might help) and financial resources. Together, you may come up with a game plan in which one family member can contribute a monthly amount for care while another can give a gift of time. Sometimes friends, neighbors, service clubs, and faith communities will rally to provide support.

Gathering as much information as possible is key to navigating this journey. By being proactive and educating yourselves, you and your family can better minimize challenging behaviors and may be able to keep your loved one at home longer.

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