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Financial Burdens of Dementia

The monetary expenditure involved in the caring for a loved one with dementia can be at least three or four times higher than the amount used in caring for an average senior adult.

Recently, I received a correspondence from a woman who has been her mother’s primary caregiver for the past five years. In her letter she explained that she has to pay an outside caregiver $13 per hour. This was so that she herself could continue working to maintain her $15 per hour job. She said, “A little bit’s better than nothing, and it gives me a chance to get some respite.”

Sadly, this dear caregiver only gets respite while she is at work. This is a problem we all need to working on.

Most caregivers have to give up their employment completely, bringing on the additional stress of facing financial ruin. I understand her dilemma only too well. When I was my dad’s main caregiver, at first I had to cut my working hours in half. Ultimately, I found it necessary to shrink those hours to about 12 in a week, if I was lucky. Any hours I was able to work were due to the help from my beloved sister.

Regarding pharmaceutical costs of years ago, medications for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, which by the way reportedly only eased the symptoms for a short length of time, were and still are exceedingly expensive. My dad had the Medicare D-Plan which reached its limit so fast that we ended up falling quickly into a financial crater.

Beware because additional costs may include:

  • Hiring home care
  • Transforming the home into a safe haven
  • Acquiring medical equipment
  • Admittance into a nursing home
  • Incontinence products

The list goes on and on. Trust me, these costs can easily bankrupt any family.

The incidence of dementia-related diseases is rising at an astonishing rate. It’s now listed as the sixth leading cause of death and climbing. Experts from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) released a report that persons, Globally, are developing dementia every three seconds. Breaking that down, that’s 20 people per minute, 1,200 per hour, 28,800 a day. That’s a very hard number to swallow.

The best advice I can offer, once again, is for families to work together. Instead of all the burdensome costs and care falling upon any one person, it should be shared throughout all family members. I’ve found that tragedies tend to bring people together, and that is exactly what category this disease falls into; a true tragedy. Sadly, instead, dementia-related diseases have a tendency of tearing families apart.

Below is a check off list to help start getting the financial, legal and health information together when a loved one is diagnosed. Please go through the list and talk to an Elder Law Attorney. Procrastination does not mix well with dementia.

Finances

  • Make a list of all bank accounts and where they are held
  • Consolidate and simplify all accounts and make sure they are correctly titled
  • Have power of attorney titled to all financial accounts
  • Get contact information from all financial advisers
  • Accompany them during meetings with his or her financial advisers
  • Review Social Security benefits
  • Do not go paperless on bank statements. Keep all monthly printed records. Writing checks keeps a better paper trail.
  • Keep care partners bank accounts separate. This can help when it comes to dealing with Medicare & Medicaid.
  • Make sure all beneficiary designations are up-to-date
  • Use electronic auto-pay for billing and auto-deposit

Insurance

  • Make a list of all insurance policies and where they are located
  • Review homeowners, auto and umbrella liability policies
  • Review health insurance coverage
  • Have your loved one approve you to talk to their insurance company, doctors and other institutions. Be on their HIPPA list

Legal documents

  • Do they have a will, trust or estate plan? If so are they all up-to-date?
  • Do they have a “durable power of attorney” for financial issues?
  • Do they have a durable power of attorney for health care or a health care surrogate?
  • Does the health care power of attorney contain a health-care directive?
  • Make sure the power of attorney documents are valid in the state they’re living in.

Living arrangements

  • Is their current housing situation suitable?
  • Does the house need to be updated for their needs?
  • Have they made contingency plans for further illness, mobility disabilities or death of a spouse? If so, is there money to pay for this?

Health

  • Keep an updated list of their doctors and current medications.
  • Become a coordinator for their care providers and insurance companies. Don’t take for granted thinking this is automatically being handled.

Please note that the affects of this disease changes with time. You will need to revisit all plans frequently.

All the above needs to be put into action as early as possible; immediately following their diagnosis is ideal.

Please feel free to share this list with anyone else in need.