Covering the Costs of Alzheimer’s: Financial Planning Advice for Families

Special thanks to our good friend, Karen Weeks, of ElderWellness, for preparing this article just for our West View family and readers!

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that largely affects seniors. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s; the disease becomes progressively worse leading up to the patient’s death. Symptoms include memory loss, trouble with familiar tasks, cognitive difficulties, disorientation, decreased judgment, changes in personality, mood disorders and social withdrawal.

During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the patient can typically live at home with some modifications and supervision. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the patient is unable to manage essential day-to-day responsibilities. From home renovations for accessibility to long-term care needs, Americans spend about $277 billion a year on Alzheimer’s care, and $60 billion is for out-of-pocket costs.

Planning for the Costs of Alzheimer’s

What Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare is the government funded health insurance program for adults 65 and older. It is a valuable resource that helps seniors cover the growing costs of healthcare later in life. When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, Medicare has certain policies with regard to when and how much it will pay for care. For instance, Medicare Part A covers inpatient care received while in a hospital. If a patient is admitted into a hospital due to complications from Alzheimer’s, that is covered. But there are a lot of things Medicare doesn’t cover such as the costs of long-term care.

Options for Out-of-Pocket Costs

When it comes to the high costs of Alzheimer’s care, it’s best to use many resources. Long-term care insurance covers all the costs that Medicare does not pay for when it comes to custodial care for Alzheimer’s patients. These policies have high premiums, but it makes sense. After all, experts know that health care costs are going to increase drastically over the years. The younger the person when they start their long-term care insurance policy, the more affordable it is. For someone living with Alzheimer’s, the investment in long-term care insurance can provide financial security for their family.

When it comes to costs not related to long-term care — accessibility renovations, for instance — it might take other resources. Selling a life insurance policy is a process known as a life settlement.  It’s a safe and smart option as long as the cash payout is going to be greater than the surrender value. Not only does the policyholder receive a nice cash settlement, but they also no longer have to pay monthly premiums, which can be helpful for seniors living on a fixed budget.

Beyond investing in and selling insurance, look into any untapped benefits the patient may have. Low-income individuals may qualify for Medicaid, a government program that can cover all or a portion of nursing home or long-term care costs. Veterans are eligible for services and resources through the VA. Also check with your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter for information on programs and resources that can help with care as the disease progresses. Those with Alzheimer’s can also qualify for state run programs such as day treatment and caregiver respite. Finally, apply for grants and support through any and all nonprofits that specialize in senior or Alzheimer’s care.

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Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult diagnosis. It’s hard to watch a loved one lose their ability to care for themselves. Having options when it comes to financing care for an Alzheimer’s patient gives you the freedom to provide the best care possible while preserving their dignity. Modifications and supervision make it easier to provide in-home care for patients, but most people with Alzheimer’s end up needing some other type of custodial care eventually. Having long-term care insurance is the best way to know that the patient can be admitted into the best facilities without putting undue strain on the family finances. For other costs, selling a life insurance policy can be a great way to free up cash. However for those who do not have the luxury of insurance, tap into any benefits that you can find to pay for the high costs of health care.

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