Alzheimer’s Disease will cost the American public over $259 billion in 2017 alone and has been classified the most expensive disease to treat— just ahead of illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart failure. Families are often horrified when they learn that a loved one has been diagnosed with this disease because of its progression over time and the lack of a cure. Alzheimer’s patients will inevitably require some form of in-home care or ongoing treatment and their families will normally shoulder the financial cost of care along with emotional turmoil and stress.
Families of Alzheimer’s Patients Crippled by Expenses
A recent study determined that just under half of the patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease will receive care from family members who make personal sacrifices to pay for their treatment. These sacrifices are often the choice to put off a family trip or not to make a big ticket purchase but can become more burdensome for those who are already on a tight budget. Some families must consider whether they wish to continue eating the same quality of food or if they can afford other necessities while providing for a loved one with this disease.
Medicare and Medicaid are where these families turn when the burden becomes too great, but the benefits they receive may not always be sufficient. An assisted living community can cost over $40,000 a year, and a home in a nursing home with ongoing care can exceed $90,000 per year. The patient’s special needs may drive up the cost even more, placing financial and emotional stress on family members who must debate how they are going to split and shoulder the bills.
More Families are Choosing to Plan for the Future
As more people become burdened by the exorbitant costs of nursing care, they are beginning to turn to long-term care insurance, which is a special form of healthcare insurance that will contribute to the cost of caring for conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The problem is that the insurance must be purchased while the person is still in good health.
Before you consider purchasing one of these plans, however, you need to consider factors such as the coverage limits and whether your family’s health history indicates enough of a risk to justify taking out the policy.
The Impact on Family Members’ Health
Caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients often find themselves carrying additional stress and developing health issues of their own. Many must quit their jobs to be around their loved ones throughout the day, and the financial and emotional stress can contribute to anxiety, depression, hypertension and heart disease. As these health conditions begin to impact the caregivers, the costs associated with treating them cause a snowball effect that worsens their financial woes.
Joining support groups can help ease this tension and allow caregivers to learn more about coping mechanisms, ways to avoid trips to the hospital and how they can lower the cost of treatment. The Alzheimer’s Association offers a support hotline at 1-800-272-3900 for people to get counseling and support as well.
Slowing the Progression of Alzheimer’s May Reduce Costs
There are some activities and strategies caregivers can implement which may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia so that the patient does not visit the emergency room as frequently or require specialized treatment. Delaying the progression of the illness can also improve the person’s quality of life and let the family enjoy more meaningful time with their loved one before the disease reaches its more serious stages.
Music, exercise, writing and art can all engage the mind to stave off the worsening of symptoms and help a patient with his or her memory and concentration. It is a good idea to try to keep your loved one as active as possible if he or she is diagnosed with the condition.
Take Advantage of Clinical Trials
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, clinical trials are allowing many families to access treatment for free and to help with the furtherment of research that will allow doctors to treat the disease more effectively in the future. Many struggling families are turning to these trials to meet their needs and to lift the burden they feel so that they can take care of their own needs
A clinical trial may also delay the need to place a loved one in a nursing facility. The high cost of nursing care makes this a benefit in and of itself by saving family members upwards of $90,000 or more per year. To learn more about clinical trials, you can contact the Alzheimer’s Association.
While caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease may create a financial and emotional burden, there are plenty of resources available to help. From support groups and long-term care insurance to clinical trials, these resources may also have a positive impact on your own health and ability to cope.