A great number of articles have been written in recent months about the increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. Today there are more than 5 million Americans, nearly all seniors, suffering with the disease, a group whose care this year will cost the nation almost $260 billion. These costs, according to experts, could exceed $1 trillion by 2050 as the number of people diagnosed with the disease is projected to triple.
You’ve probably heard numbers like these before. But one fact which startled us, and which should get your attention if you’re caring with a loved one diagnosed with dementia, is that by far the largest share of these staggering costs are borne by families. This is according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that looked at the lifetime cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of severe cognitive impairment. We found some of the basic information about this sobering reality in this article from the website Insurance News.
According to the article, public health experts from Brown University wanted to find out just how costly caring for someone with dementia can be over the course of his or her lifetime. They came up with a mathematical model derived by studying Medicare records and other national studies, a model which allowed them to simulate the progression of dementia in a patient who had just been diagnosed.
The model the team came up with was a real eye-opener. In the U.S. an average individual with dementia will receive almost $322,000 worth of medical care over a five year period. This compares with an average of less than $140,000 in care over the same five-year period for the person without dementia. And here’s the shocker: of that $322,000, about 86 percent is borne by families, in the form of informal care expenses, co-pays and other out of pocket care costs. That represents a staggering average cost of more than $55,000 per year for five years for the family of the loved one with dementia, either in direct cash outlay or in the value of care services the family is providing.
This figure comes close to the statistics compiled by the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org). According to the group, there were almost 16 million family and friends in 2016 providing care to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. When the value of these unpaid caregiving services was calculated it came to about $46,000 for each dementia sufferer. That’s in addition to the medical costs associated with dementia, currently approaching $260 billion: Medicare and Medicaid cover two-thirds of that amount, but about $56 billion comes in the form of out of pocket costs paid for by families.
Of course the greatest burden to those caring for loved ones with dementia is emotional, but the financial cost makes the sadness even more acute. The pain of watching a beloved parent or friend slip into the twilight of Alzheimer’s disease is terrible enough, but it’s compounded by the growing realization that caregiving brings with it a potentially catastrophic financial weight. Here at AgingOptions we talk every week with people who find themselves in this devastating situation, and our advice for you is not to try to go it alone. There are excellent resources online, such as the Caregiver Center on the Alzheimer’s Association website (click here for the link.) But one of the best things you can do is to get some professional advice, and that’s where we can assist. For example, a family conference, guided by one of our experienced professional staff, will help ensure that everyone in the family is on the same page when it comes to caring for mom or dad. Another excellent idea is for you and your entire family to attend a free AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar.
LifePlanning is our descriptive term for a type of comprehensive retirement planning offered only by AgingOptions. Traditional retirement planning, which focuses almost entirely on finances, is literally a recipe for disaster – like trying to make a stool that can stand securely on just one leg. Our conviction, built on decades of experience, is that all the aspects of your retirement planning have to work together: finances, housing choices, medical coverage, legal protection and family communication. That way all five facets of your retirement plan reinforce each other.
We invite you to bring your questions about all aspects of retirement and plan now to attend a free LifePlanning Seminar at a location convenient for you. In just a few hours you’ll discover an approach to comprehensive retirement planning that will guide you into the future you’ve always dreamed of. For dates, times and online registration, click on this link, or call us for assistance during the week.
No one wants to become a burden to their loved ones as they age, but dementia can unravel the most carefully-laid plans, robbing families of their assets and often forcing loved ones into institutional care. No matter what your situation, get the facts now so you can prepare for whatever the future may hold. We’ll see you soon at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar.