Alzheimer’s is a devastating and cruel disease. It slowly robs sufferers of their memories, their recognition, and, eventually, their ability to function independently. Given the huge impact this illness can have both on patients and their families, it is no surprise that the expenses associated with treatment and care are likewise huge. By some estimates, Americans (including costs covered by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers and out-of-pocket by patients and their families) spend upwards of $200 billion annually on Alzheimer’s-related care.
The thought of having to pay for long-term assisted-living, nursing home or in-home care for an incapacitated loved one is daunting to say the least. Unless provisions are made ahead of time to preserve eligibility for government benefit programs like Medicare or Medicaid, covering the costs of Alzheimer’s care can easily wipe out a person’s life savings in a short time. After all, many nursing homes can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, and with life expectancies climbing, a patient who enters a facility in the mid-stages of the disease could still end up needing years of care.
Weighing your options
There are several options available that you should familiarize yourself with prior to deciding how best to pay for Alzheimer’s care. These include:
- Purchasing long-term care insurance ahead of time – you’ll need to pay premiums on this insurance (like you would with health or life insurance), so you’ll have an out-of-pocket expense upfront, but it could be a huge financial benefit down the road
- Private pay (using estate assets, retirement funds, pension accounts, stock portfolios, etc., to cover expenses)
- Government benefit programs like Medicare or Medicaid (only available to those with limited assets)
- Providing care within the family (having one or two trusted relatives provide care for your loved one, either for a fee or not) as long as possible can save significantly on costs in the early stages of the disease, but it could become too much to handle as the condition progresses and the patient deteriorates
The best way to finance long-term care for Alzheimer’s or other incapacitating conditions will depend heavily upon the unique facts of the patient’s financial situation. A solution that works for one person could be the worst possible approach for another. The decision is ultimately yours, of course, but it should be made carefully, and after seeking the advice and guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.