Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is emotionally challenging to say the least. Add to that the financial burdens, and it may seem as if providing quality care for your loved one is nearly impossible.
While there isn’t anything that will completely eliminate the emotional expense Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia can take on a family, there are ways to ease the financial expenses. The earlier you can plan for the long-term costs of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, the smoother that part of the journey will be.
“When you plan ahead financially, you have the greatest access to choices,” says counselor Ruth Drew, MS, director of Family and Information Services for the Alzheimer’s Association. “If you don’t prepare and land in a crisis situation, at that point, choices are few.”
To learn more about the ways you can alleviate some of the emotional stress Alzheimer’s can cause, visit Battling Caregiver Stress.
Finding Help to Pay for Alzheimer’s
According to a 2013 report by the Alzheimer’s Association, the annual health care and long-term costs of people with Alzheimer’s disease who are covered by Medicare average $46,000 per year. The average cost for prescriptions is $3,000 annually, and other health care providers and tests cost roughly $6,000.
While these numbers may seem daunting, the good news is that there are many tools and resources to help you find financial support.
“Find out what you qualify for,” urges Drew. “Most people need the assistance of a social worker or a financial planner to find out what’s available.” Here are some resources to help get you started.
- Find an advisor. A local office on aging can help patients and caregivers tap a financial planner, an estate planning attorney or new accountant. “It’s very important that estate planning and elder law is the person’s area of expertise,” says Drew. “You want someone who has dealt with families in similar situations.” Check National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (http://www.naela.org/) to find out if yours is listed in good standing.
- Contact the Alzheimer’s Association, one of its local chapters or its 24-hour help line (1-800-272-3900). Area agencies on aging also can help. To access one near you, go to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (http://www.n4a.org/). “These agencies often tap legal and financial resources for people unable to afford a financial planner,” says Drew. “But financial planning doesn’t have to be expensive. The main thing is getting information and knowing what to think about.”
- Look into employee disability and Social Security disability. Social Security now offers a compassionate allowance waiver to those with Alzheimer’s that processes disability requests more quickly. You can find out more information at www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/.
- Research veteran’s benefits if your loved one is a war veteran. People don’t realize some are offered, says Drew.
While planning, be sure to discuss financial plans with your loved one. “If the person with Alzheimer’s is included, the process will go so much better,” says Drew. “You don’t have to wonder what Mom would want. It’s empowering and respectful for the patient to have a voice in decisions about her own care.”
Gather Key Legal and Financial Information
In addition to planning ahead for the finances you and your loved one may face, it’s important to start gathering the necessary legal and financial documents ahead of time as well. Here are some tips:
- Get a jump on collecting other financial documents, such as bank and brokerage accounts, deeds and mortgages, insurance policies, tax returns, monthly bills, pension or retirement benefits, rental income and Social Security payments.
- Choose a durable power of attorney or health care proxy. Your loved one with Alzheimer’s must designate someone to make financial decisions if, at some point, he or she isn’t able to. “Choose a close relative or friend, someone you trust,” says Drew.
- Find or create a standard will. This will explain how your loved one wants his or her property and assets to be distributed after death.
- Educate yourself on the HIPAA Privacy Rule, and consider having your loved one sign a release form.