Sadly, as Americans live longer, more of us are subject to some form of a debilitating dementia. It may just be forgetfulness or it may be Alzheimer’s disease. But it does not really matter; family resources will be stretched in order to provide adequate care.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of people in the United States afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease will rise 40 percent by 2025. Add in other forms of dementia and the numbers become even more astonishing.
Unlike diseases that have cures or treatments, dementia and Alzheimer’s are still untreatable. There are some treatments available for Alzheimer’s, but they only slow the progression, they do not stop it. Since Alzheimer’s and dementia march resolutely forward, the toll they take on family members emotionally, physically, and financially is intense.
When loved ones lose memory and begin to wander, Medicare will not cover the cost of treatment or care, unless the person is wealthy, family resources are quickly tapped – maybe even entirely.
People who develop Alzheimer’s will spend more time in the severest stage of the disease than in all other stages combined. The severest stage is evidenced by loss of memory, loss of judgment, loss of orientation and inability to control bodily functions. Without prompting them, patients might forget to eat. Caring for them without help is a physical and emotional drain that few families can afford.
By age 80, 75 percent of patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s will be living in a nursing home versus 4 percent of the general population. The cost of care in a nursing home averages $81,000 while the cost of assisted living is about $43,000. Adult day care is about $70 per day, but if round-the-clock is needed the cost can double to $150.00 per day.
If the patient is at home, Medicare will pay for some expenses such as Meals on Wheels and doctor visits. It will not pay for long-term care though, such as home nursing care. Veterans may have coverage and many people quickly qualify for Medicaid if they need nursing home care – though they must spend down their assets first. Since Medicaid is administered by each state, coverage varies.
The Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent source of information and can also put families and in touch with local resourced that provide free or low-cost services such as transportation, support groups, respite care and home meal deliveries.
Long-term care insurance is another way to deal with the expenses, but if you wait until diagnosis, the policy may be cost-prohibitive or unobtainable.