Caring for a Family Member with Dementia is Demanding. Paid Alzheimer's Care is Expensive. Planning is Smart.

We know that more and more people have dementia than ever before. Families face crises and chaos. Assets get drained. What can you do?

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Caring for a Family Member with Dementia is Demanding. Paid Alzheimer's Care is Expensive. Planning is Smart.
3 Min Read June 19th, 2021

Nearly 15 million family members, friends, and neighbors provide long-term health care services for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease. The job of a family caregiver is demanding both physically and emotionally. When the care recipient is a loved one with dementia, the job is even more challenging. 

There is a growing number of people who have Alzheimer's or some other type of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most famous of them all and accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases. There are several other types of dementia, including mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.

Families and Finances Affected Dramatically 

The consequences of dementia are catastrophic for family and finances, not to mention life-changing for the person suffering from the disease. Many people are still unaware that health insurance and Medicare (including supplements) pay little toward dementia care - or any long-term health care. Medicaid will pay for this type of care, with Medicaid-approved facilities, and in limited cases, community care, only if you have little or no assets. With the absence of Long-Term Care Insurance, families must make the best out of a terrible situation. 

The result becomes chaos and crisis as the family becomes default caregivers or must decide which accounts to liquidate and find paid caregivers for their loved one. Often, they must do both. 

It is stressful. It is emotional. It is physically demanding. Generally, it is not what most people would ever want their loved ones to have to go through.

Families Often Default Caregivers

The CDC reports that those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias are customarily cared for by family members or friends, with 80% of them receiving care in their homes. Over 17 billion hours of unpaid care are involved, and that amount is increasing every year. 

Dementia caregivers are usually women, with 34% being older, ag 65+. For caregivers over age 65, the role takes a massive toll on their health and well-being.

Nearly one-quarter of dementia caregivers are part of the so-called "sandwich generation." These are caregivers that care for an aging parent and an aging parent for children under age 18. Talk about stress.

Dementia Caregivers Must Work Longer

Many people live in care longer when they have dementia than other conditions that require long-term care services and supports. This means that the family caregiver's role goes on even longer, taking a more significant toll on the caregiver's family, finances, and health. Family caregivers of those with Alzheimer's and related dementias are at more elevated risk for anxiety, depression, and poorer quality of life than caregivers of people with other conditions.

The CDC says 57% of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and related dementias provide care for four years or more. Sixty-three percent of dementia caregivers expect to continue having care responsibilities for the next five years.

The best way to help a family caregiver is to prevent the situation from ever happening in the first place. If you have a loved one already in care, it is really too late - you are now in a crisis. You must take care of yourself as you take care of your loved one. Take advantage of available resources and use financial resources to provide paid care services as much as possible.

Finding Support for Caregivers

The CDC suggests that you can ease the stress and anxiety from your caregiving duties by taking consistent breaks. Respite care will help you have the time you need to take care of yourself, which is critical for the caregiver's health and well-being.

The Caregiver Action Network says the best advice for family caregivers comes often comes from those people who have already experienced the job and pitfalls that come with being a caregiver.

Prepare Family and Finances with LTC Insurance

What if you could do something now so this pressure on your family and finances would be reduced when you need care, either from dementia or other conditions that cause people to require help with daily living activities due to an illness, accident, or aging?

For many American families, Long-Term Care Insurance is a simple and affordable way to provide the funds and support to access your choice of quality care, including in-home care.

Don't think you can wait until you 'need it,' however, to purchase LTC Insurance. Long-Term Care Insurance is medically underwritten, so you must have reasonable health when you apply for coverage. Every insurance company is different. Even premiums vary over 100% between companies. You will need an experienced and licensed Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you navigate the many available options. 

Start Planning Early

Premiums are much lower when you are younger. Your health is better. What happens if you are older or have some chronic health problems? You may still have some options.

A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will review your detailed health history and see which companies, if any, would consider you.

Reverse mortgages have become popular for those over age 60 to either pay for a policy by eliminating your mortgage or even provide funds for care if you are already in a care situation. 

LTC NEWS has a reverse mortgage section where you can learn more and even ask one of the nation's top experts, Mike Banner, a question to see if it is appropriate for you.

Aging happens—your health changes. You want your family to have the time to be family. Planning before you get to declining health will give you control and avoid dependency and the consequences that come with it. 

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About the Author

Linda Kople is a freelance writer with a personal family history in long-term care. She specializes in aging-related topics such as caregiving, health, and retirement planning. Her experiences and interests drive her to explore and write about the various aspects of aging and health issues.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

No matter what you do when you are younger, you cannot avoid aging. The consequences of longevity affect your future income, assets, lifestyle, and legacy. These adverse consequences come from the costs of long-term health care and its effect on those you love.

Your family will either become your caregiver or manage your paid care services. Neither is an easy task. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows you the financial impact depending on where you live. The cost varies depending on your location and increases every year.

One of the proactive things you can do to prepare for the costs and burdens of aging is to add an affordable Long-Term Care policy to your retirement plan.

You will have guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for your choice of quality care in the setting you desire, including in-home care options. The benefits will safeguard assets and reduce the stress and anxiety otherwise placed on your family. 

You can't avoid changing health or the changes that happen with your body and mind. You can, however, be proactive and take control. Act before you retire and give yourself independence and asset control. 

Tools for Research Available on LTC NEWS

LTC NEWS offers multiple tools and resources to help you research the financial costs and burdens of aging so you can find an affordable solution. 

Two guides to review are The Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide and Long-Term Care Tax Benefits Guide.

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