Learning you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease is scary in more ways than one. No one wants to watch a loved one decline or know their own faculties are destined to fade. But behind the wondering about what will happen, there’s another question looming: How will we pay for it?
There are a lot of costs associated with Alzheimer’s care and paying for it isn’t always straightforward. This FAQ will help answer some questions you might having about Alzheimer’s care.
What kind of care does Alzheimer’s disease require?
The care required by a person with Alzheimer’s disease depends on which stage of the disease they’re in.
In Stages 1 through 3, most people with Alzheimer’s disease continue to live independently. They may experience difficulty with organizing, planning and scheduling. In most cases, the patient can accommodate these changes with light assistance from family and friends.
In Stages 4 and 5 of Alzheimer’s disease, people start needing a more help. They may require assistance managing the household and dressing and grooming themselves. In-home care is an excellent source of assistance during this stage. A caregiver can remind the patient to take medications and help with household duties and personal care.
By Stage 6, round-the-clock supervision is needed. At this stage, seniors are best served through residence in a memory care facility or nursing home. In Stage 7, the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the care of skilled nursing staff in a nursing home is necessary.
What does Alzheimer’s care cost?
Expenses generally increase as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Most early costs such as diagnostic fees and outpatient care are covered by health insurance. Costs grow considerably when patients begin to require long-term care services, as long-term care isn’t covered by Medicare or individual insurance plans.
In home care costs about $20 per hour in most areas. For part-time care, that’s around $20,000 annually. For full-time care, costs approach $50,000.
Memory care, a type of assisted living designed for people with dementia, costs approximately $5,000 per month, or $60,000 a year.
Nursing homes are the most expensive long-term care provide. They average $83,000 to $93,000 per year, depending on whether a semi-private or private room is selected.
Families rarely pay 100 percent of expenses out of pocket, but the cost burden is sizable nonetheless. As The New York Times reports, the average out-of-pocket cost paid for dementia care is $61,522.
How do families pay for Alzheimer’s care?
Health insurance is limited in its capacity to pay for Alzheimer’s care. While health insurance, whether through a private insurer or Medicare, will pay for medical expenses related to the disease — diagnostic tests, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, and in some cases, prescriptions — it doesn’t pay for long-term care. That’s true whether the care is provided at home or in a care facility.
To pay for long-term care, families have two options: Pay out-of-pocket or qualify for Medicaid. In many cases, the approaches are combined and the patient ends up qualifying for Medicaid after spending their assets on long-term care. Before reaching that point, there are a variety of resources families can access to pay for care, such as:
- Life insurance: If the patient owns a whole life insurance policy, it can be sold for a cash payout.
- Real estate: The patient’s home can be sold for a lump sum of cash or a reverse mortgage for steady payouts.
- Veteran benefits: Qualified U.S. veterans and their spouses can receive aid for long-term care through Aid and Attendance benefits.
- Income, savings and investments: Social Security income, retirement savings, annuities and other financial resources can be tapped for care. However, families should reserve funds for living expenses and end-of-life expenses.
There are countless questions running through your mind after hearing the news of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and money questions aren’t the least of them. Instead of worrying over how you’ll pay for Alzheimer’s care, sit down and start making a plan. If you need help, talk to your financial advisor and an attorney experienced in elder law to determine the best options for your family.