Tips for Meeting the Cost of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

by June Duncan

Meeting Costs of Alzheimer's and Dementia Care photo

Alzheimer’s and dementia care can overwhelm a family’s financial resources. We explore the payment options that may be available to help cover these steep costs.

Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other memory-related problems affect more than 5 million Americans, many of whom are in a state of mental decline that requires constant supervision. Caregivers spend billions of hours looking after loved ones with conditions so severe they can’t be left alone. However, when no family members are available to provide care, families must find alternative resources, which may place a strain on their resources.

Coverage gaps in Medicare and health insurance mean you need to find affordable, quality care for your family member, which could lead to in-home aid, assisted living, adult day care, or a nursing home facility depending on the stage of their condition. If a family member requires intensive care services, there are many programs that provide financial and other forms of aid.

Care Options

If your loved one is at risk for wandering away, they probably require care that an assisted living residence can provide, with their layered security precautions and monitoring capabilities. Security guards and location monitoring are just a couple of the security features assisted living facilities can provide. It’s an excellent option, but be aware that the national average for assisted living is approximately $4,000 a month. Most nursing homes are also well-equipped to handle individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia at a national average cost of $6,600 a month.

Adult day cares can also help individuals with Alzheimer’s (more than $1,500 a month on average), though many are not equipped to care for individuals in the latter stages of the disease. And prescription medications for Alzheimer’s or dementia are pricey as well.

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A Tough Conversation

It’s a difficult subject to broach, but it’s important that you and your family member discuss a care strategy for when their condition worsens. Bear in mind that it’s better to have the talk sooner than later so it’s easier to communicate clearly and avoid misunderstandings. Carefully record your loved one’s wishes and ensure that those wishes are carried out. This may also be the time to discuss purchasing burial insurance. This type of insurance covers final arrangements (such as burial and memorial service) and can even be used to pay for debts such as medical bills.

How Do I Pay/Get Financial Help?

Clearly, extended Alzheimer’s care is big business, and it can be overwhelming for families who lack the resources to cover exorbitant out-of-pocket costs. Finding ways to pay for a loved one’s Alzheimer’s care is quite often a patchwork affair, with money coming from a variety of sources. For example, Medicare will cover certain aspects of Alzheimer’s care, including 100 percent of nursing home costs if medically necessary for 20 days, 80 percent for a further 80 days, and will provide assistance for up to 190 days if care is needed in a psychiatric facility. However, Medicare will not cover personal at-home or assisted living care, and nursing home coverage is limited to just over three months.

Medicaid, which is state-administered, and other state-based assistance programs can help fill in some of the Medicare coverage gaps. Many of these programs provide quality, affordable care or can help you locate it in your area. Non-profit organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and the Alzheimer’s Association provide Family Respite Care Grants, and veterans can look for assistance through the Veterans Administration’s VA Respite Care program.

Individual Options

If you’ve exhausted other payment options, there are a number of individual alternatives that will allow you to generate revenue for long-term nursing care. Life insurance policies, for example, can be a valuable resource because you may be eligible for a death benefit loan or a conversion in which you sell your policy to a third party to free up money for Alzheimer’s care costs. Alzheimer’s care loans can be a good, short-term bridge option while you’re waiting for other sources of funding to come through.

Alzheimer’s care can be a very expensive proposition, and if sources of financial aid are difficult to come by, it may overwhelm a family’s financial resources. Information is your best asset if you are facing a protracted care situation for a family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It can help you navigate through an often convoluted field of payment options that may begin with Medicare but eventually stretch your budget to the limit.

Reviewed February 2020

About the Author

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 author of the book The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get The After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist for FREE!

Your Email:

You deserve a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to After 50 Finances, our weekly newsletter dedicated to people 50 years and older. Each issue features financial topics and other issues important to the 50+ crowd that can help you plan for a comfortable retirement even if you haven't saved enough.

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