3 Questions about Planning and Paying for Alzheimer's Care
Updated: May 14, 2020
Guest post by Lydia Chan of alzheimerscaregiver.net
When you hear an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed with change, fear and uncertainty. While you might feel a sense of relief in finally getting an understanding of why you’ve been feeling so out of sorts lately, that moment is often overshadowed by the long-term reality of this progressive disease. There’s going to be a lot to consider and prepare for in this journey with Alzheimer’s, and health care is going to be at the top of your list.
Here are a few answers to three of the most common, and most important, questions about the health care costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
What will Medicare actually cover?
Since the vast majority of people diagnosed with a cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s or dementia are over the age of 65, it’s important to know what Medicare will and will not cover. For example, Medicare will only cover hospice care if a doctor has determined the patient is near the end of their life. But hospice can provide much more care than that. Often described as comfort care, hospice is an effective way for people with Alzheimer’s to manage their chronic pain. In those situations, as well as others that Medicare won’t cover, consider looking into Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage plans provide the same coverage as Medicare Parts A and B, but with additional benefits such as prescriptions, dental, vision, fitness services, and caregiver support.
How can I cover out-of-pocket expenses?
There will be some costs and fees for Alzheimer’s treatment and care that you will have to cover yourself. Consider selling your home and downsizing if you want to cover the cost of in-home care or moving into an assisted living facility. If you have dividends from investments, properties you no longer use or other assets you can sell, putting those resources aside now for future long-term care can save you time and money later.
If you are savvy about your finances, you can avoid having to sacrifice quality of care for cost. For example, you can sell a life insurance policy for a cash payout, which will allow you to pay for a caregiver, medical equipment or home modifications not covered by your insurance.
At this point, you may want to consider the future financial well-being of loved ones as well. It may not be easy to think about your funeral, but the average funeral costs $7,000 to $10,000. This can be a significant financial burden for family members to take on, but if you purchase burial insurance, you can pay for the costs of your funeral and even leftover medical bills and debts.
How do I find good and affordable care?
You have a lot of options when it comes to finding care to help you manage your Alzheimer’s. There may be a family member who is willing to take on the role of caregiver, which is a very rewarding but also very stressful endeavor. This may be the most affordable option, but you should suggest some training for your companion, such as CPR, managing the difficult behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and understanding the body’s aging process.
You can also hire a professional caregiver, a nurse or nursing assistant with experience working with cognitive impairments. You’ll want to interview candidates, check references and make sure this person is a good fit professionally and personally. There can be some unexpected costs here, such as food, mileage reimbursement and paid time off.
A third option is to tour assisted living facilities to find one that has a good reputation for Alzheimer’s care. When it comes to looking at a facility, often the most expensive option, you’ll need to find a balance between comfort and affordability. Typically, however, when moving into a center or a home, you have a house or other property you can sell to offset the annual and monthly costs.
Even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and confusion can make decisions about care difficult. All of these changes can add more stress, making your illness harder to manage. Stay calm and remember that you are not alone. About 5.5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and more than 5 million of those are over the age of 65. These decisions and changes are hard, but not impossible. Planning and preparing now— with loved ones if you can— is your best bet for a comfortable future.