Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that mostly affects people in their senior stage of life. It is the most common form of dementia, and approximately 5.7 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018. Alzheimer’s is more common in women than men, and the disease progresses quicker with a greater rate of brain deterioration for females.
Certain conditions and lifestyle choices and conditions increase a person’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, including being inactive, avoiding brain-stimulating activities, antisocial behavior, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and poor diet.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Memory loss
- Inability to perform familiar tasks
- Problems with language
- Impaired judgment
- Problems with abstract thought
- Changes in mood, personality, and behavior
- Loss of initiative
- Decreased motor skills
- Wandering and becoming lost
- Poor grooming habits
The High Price of Alzheimer’s
When a person has Alzheimer’s disease, they eventually lose their ability to care for themselves. And the long-term care needs for an Alzheimer’s patient are costly. While the bulk of medical care costs are covered by Medicare, the average annual out-of-pocket costs to care for older adults with Alzheimer’s is still over $10,000.
What Does Medicare Cover?
Medicare pays for cognitive assessment and care planning services for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease as well as inpatient hospital care, some doctor fees, and other medical items. Under certain circumstances, Medicare will pay for 100 days of skilled nursing home care, but the costs of long-term custodial care are the patient’s responsibility. Adding supplemental coverage like Humana Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplements can help cover costs that itself Medicare will not. Medicare Advantage Plans are an alternative way to get your original Medicare Part A and Part B benefits, while Medicare Supplements are a type of insurance coverage that helps you pay for your Medicare Part A and Part B copayments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs. Furthermore, Medicare offers Alzheimer’s Special Needs Plans that specialize in care and coverage for beneficiaries with dementia.
How to Cover Out-of-Pocket Costs
Crafting a savings or insurance plan to help cover the costs of Alzheimer’s can save your family a huge financial burden. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s or carry the high-risk APOE gene, you should start these plans as soon as possible to ensure your wishes are met. When making these plans, share them with your family members so they can be prepared, as the disease causes neurological degradation and you become less able to communicate.
There are a few options that can help with the financial burden:
• Long-term care insurance covers the costs of high-priced care, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in-home services. The sooner you enroll in a long-term care insurance policy, the more affordable the premiums. Long-term care insurance gives patients the freedom to receive care in a way that meets their wishes.
• A Health Savings Account allows adults to save money without having to pay taxes as long as the funds are used on healthcare services, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Setting up a shared savings account with your primary caregiver allows them to access funds without becoming encumbered with red tape.
• For home renovations that enable safe aging in place, look into special federal grants for those living with disabilities who need to modify their homes.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that makes it impossible for a person to care for themselves. While Medicare covers some of the costs associated with Alzheimer’s, families still have to pay large sums out of pocket. Setting up a savings plan or investing in long-term care insurance can help cover these expenses and lessen the burden on your loved ones.
Written by: Lydia Chan, Alzheimer’s Caregiver