Think about this: every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, and there are 5.7 million Americans currently living with the malady. This number is only going to grow as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to increase. Considering the rate at which people are developing the disease and the lifetime cost of care ($341,840), it’s no surprise that Alzheimer’s has become the most expensive disease in America, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Beyond Medicare and Medicaid, individuals and families bear most of the cost, which can have a very significant impact on their financial situations or nest egg. As a financial advisor, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to help my clients, friends, and family members plan for and achieve their financial goals, but when my Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on September 16, 2016, I didn’t know where to begin. After spending countless hours on Google and reading about how to plan financially once someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I decided to create my own “cheat sheet” of important actions to undertake. I hope it will be helpful to anyone who has family members suffering from the disease:
- Begin with what you have in place. Organize and review important documents such as Wills, powers of attorney, medical records, financial statements, ownership of assets, and insurance policies. Reviewing these documents is especially important if it has not been done for a few years. Check the beneficiaries of all life insurance policies to make sure they are up to date and correct.
- Seek help from well-qualified financial and legal professionals. A financial advisor can lessen the stress of dealing with existing challenges and planning for the future. A financial plan acts as your “blueprint” or “road map” for the future. The Alzheimer’s Association notes that an attorney can create advance directives for future care of the patient, including a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney. A Living Will states the patient’s choice of future medical care decisions, while the Durable Power allows designation of a surrogate, usually a family member, to make treatment decisions.
- Explore the different types of care options that are available in your area such as Home Care, Adult Day services, Assisted Living centers, and nursing homes. Costs depend to a degree on which type and path of care is needed and feasible. For example, costs according the Alzheimer’s Association can range from $22 per hour for a home health aide or $70 daily for home health services, up to $45,000 to $97,455 annually for various levels in assisted living or nursing homes, according to the Association’s 2018 Facts and Figures
- Consider what plans need to be in place in case of unforeseen events affecting the individual with Alzheimer’s or caregivers. For example, caregivers or family members may benefit from having long-term care insurance. This insurance may help cover the cost for most care settings such as home care, nursing care, private home or even adult day care centers.
- Find out which government programs can be of help and to what degree. Medicare or Medicaid are very important, and individual states may have assistance programs as well. For those 65 and older, Medicare covers hospital care, doctors’ fees and some other services, as well as some home health care and rehabilitation therapy. Among other things, Medicaid pays for nursing home or other long-term care services for some people with very low income and low assets. There are strict standards for eligibility.
- Most importantly, understand that you’re not alone, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or take advantage of all the support groups within your community. Get involved with your local Alzheimer’ Association chapter or attend one of their many free seminars. It’s a great way to learn more about the disease and a wonderful opportunity to meet new people going through the same situation.
Charles “Doug” MacLean is a Financial Planner with the Barnum Financial Group based in the firm’s Stamford, CT office. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at203-658-1994.