Long-Term Care and Alzheimer’s: Planning for the Future
If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, now is the time to begin making plans for your own future care needs. Medicare won’t cover everything: You are responsible for ensuring your custodial needs—such as housing and assistance with hygiene—are taken care of. If your doctor confirms that you are likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s time to start preparing for the future.
Why doesn’t Medicare cover nursing care?
There are two types of nursing care: custodial and medical. Medicare does cover admittance into a skilled nursing facility for very short time periods. This admittance must follow a three-day hospital stay and you must have a health condition that requires continual monitoring. Medicare doesn’t pay for the custodial care, which is the most common type of long-term care needed by those with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.
Planning ahead: A labor of love
There are many reasons you should plan ahead for your long-term needs. First, your health insurance, like Medicare, likely won’t provide coverage for long-term housing. More importantly, by planning ahead, you’ll avoid placing both a financial and emotional strain on your family members when and if the time comes that you can no longer live alone.
Care in an assisted-living center or skilled nursing care facility doesn’t come cheap. For instance, in 2016, the national average cost people paid for a shared room in a skilled nursing facility was $6,600 per month. But, you have many options, especially if you make arrangements for payment now instead of waiting until the last minute. These options include:
- Government benefits. If you served in the military, you could be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits though the VA. Some benefits allot a set amount toward monthly care. If you become substantially disabled, you may also receive housebound benefits, according to the VA.
- Private pay. If you own a home or property, consider using equity to pay for your long-term care. Once you reach age 62, you can apply for a reverse mortgage, which pays a lump sum at once.
- Long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance goes beyond medical insurance. It is a type of policy that often has a yearly premium that’s cheaper the younger you are, according to the AARP. The right plan can reduce or eliminate your out-of-pocket expenses down the road.
- Life insurance. Most life insurance plans can be sold for a cash payment. Your insurance broker can help you determine if your life insurance qualifies.
- Medicaid, or other state-sponsored health plans, are available for low-income individuals. Your assets cannot exceed $2,000 in most cases. When you receive Medicaid, your nursing home choices are limited.
Stages and potential costs
You may never need nursing care. However, if you develop Alzheimer’s disease, you will need help—and a lot of it. There are seven levels of progression of the disease, but they can be summed up in three distinct stages:
- Early stage. Care needs in the early stage are minimal. You may require support, though you’ll most likely be independent. Transportation may be your biggest expense here, particularly if you don’t have family or friends who can take you to doctor’s appointments and to run errands.
- Middle stage. Changes in behavior are noticeable as the disease progresses. Most patients become unable to perform once-simple tasks, such as getting dressed and eating. Incontinence and hygiene issues may emerge, meaning you will need help for the vast majority of the day. A home health aid may be necessary during this time. USA Today estimates this can cost up to $30 per hour, depending where you live.
- Late stage. This is the most care-intensive time of an Alzheimer’s patient’s life. Care will be needed around the clock, and you are susceptible to infections, as well as bladder and bowel failure.
It is estimated that the number of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease will skyrocket to 7.1 million by 2025—and costs continue to rise. While healthcare professionals across the globe scramble to search for new treatment methods, these may not come in your lifetime. It’s best to make a plan now so you aren’t left without options later.
Guest Writer Lydia Chan from [email protected]