There is no way to accurately predict who will get Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that affect cognition. However, those with a family history of the disease or have suffered a severe head injury in the past have an amplified risk. The costs associated with caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s is high. And Medicare won’t necessarily pay the bill.
Factors that affect care costs
There is no doubt that a person with Alzheimer’s disease will need care, and as the disease progresses, this care will be required around the clock. In addition to individual needs and other conditions that must be managed, cost is influenced by:
- Location — rural vs. urban
- Demand for residential care
- Ability to pay
- Available subsidies
The American Elder Care Research Organization’s senior care cost calculator is a free online tool that helps families determine potential health and custodial care needs.
Paying for care
While Medicare covers many of the costs associated with Alzheimer’s and testing, it doesn’t make provisions for long-term custodial care, which most patients eventually need. Medicare does cover hospice care. This is considered palliative care for those expected to live six months or less. Many seniors and their families are left to ask the question of how they will obtain end-of-life care. Fortunately, there are options. These include:
- Reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage is an option for homeowners who have paid their mortgage in full or have a substantial amount of equity. This is a process by which the bank purchases the home while allowing the senior to retain ownership rights until the time of their death.
- Life settlement. Seniors with life insurance may be able to gain access to cash immediately through a process known as a life settlement. In order for a life settlement to occur, the senior must meet specific criteria. A senior may wish to consider selling their policy if they cannot afford the premium. Term policies coming to an end may be converted to a whole policy and sold for cash.
- Medicare Advantage. Because Medicare doesn’t provide full coverage, many seniors often enroll in a Medicare Advantage policy, such as those offered from Cigna-HealthSpring. These plans help pay for vision and dental care. However, it’s very important to note that benefits will vary by state, so it’s extremely important to do some research before you make this decision.
- Personal savings. Personal savings, including cash assets and proceeds from the sale of real or personal property, can help cover the costs of assisted living or skilled nursing care.
- Unpaid care provided by the family. Family caregivers are an option for seniors who have family available and willing to devote the vast majority of their time to providing care. Help for Alzheimer’s Families provides information Alzheimer’s care training for non-medical providers.
- In-home caregivers. The cost of in-home care varies by need and location. AgingCare.com offers a free tool for seniors to locate reputable care providers.
- Medicaid. Medicaid is federally funded insurance for low-income individuals. Specific for seniors and those with Alzheimer’s disease, Medicaid will cover the cost of care, although not everyone will qualify. While the majority of benefits are available to all Medicaid recipients, some services are provided via waiver and have limited enrollment.
Save on Alzheimer’s care
While the cost can be exponential, there are a few ways to save money on dementia care. Seniors should plan ahead as soon as possible and take advantage of free health screenings. And since no two facilities are alike, it is advised that seniors and their family get multiple price quotes and only pay for services that are absolutely necessary. Those who have served in the military may be eligible for assisted living or nursing care benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that does not discriminate, and there is currently no cure. Though Alzheimer’s care is not treatment, it is necessary to ensure the safety of the senior. When paying for care is a concern, look at your options carefully — there may be funds you haven’t considered.