The Cost of Dementia Care

February 8, 2018

No matter how comprehensive your insurance coverage might be, out-of-pocket medical costs associated with any long-term disease can be steep. Illnesses like heart disease and cancer, in particular, can be associated with long periods of decline that carry big price tags; but far outpacing those, according to recent research, is dementia. With its progressive nature and unique long term caregiving demands that typically aren’t covered by Medicare, dementia can cost up to 80% more than these other diseases during the last five years of life.

Where do costs come from?

If you’re trying to help a parent prepare financially for this scenario, of course you’ll need to get clear on their insurance and Medicare coverage. But before diving into that, it’s helpful to run through the most common cost-drivers in dementia care. These include:

  • Prescription medications
  • Treatment co-pays for assessment, diagnosis, and follow-up visits
  • OOP treatment costs for any associated medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes
  • Adult daycare services
  • Expenses related to accident-proofing, like extra railings, shower bars, entry ramps
  • Home care supplies, like shower chairs, walkers, sanitary items
  • Home healthcare services
  • Residential (nursing home) care

How do I help Dad prepare?

Navigating and understanding the fine print of healthcare coverage can be challenging and time consuming. Luckily, there are lots of both in-person and remote resources to help educate you and connect you with other helpful information. The Council on Aging, AARP and Alzheimer’s Association websites are excellent places to start, with lots of updated information and links to expand your knowledge. You also might consider consulting with a geriatric care manager whose expertise includes senior healthcare coverage, including Medicare and Medicaid. You can find out more about this option through the folks at Aging Life Care Association.

Moving from what’s covered to what’s likely out-of-pocket, it’s important to get clear on what financial resources Dad has to cover expenses over a reasonable period. A full review should include:

  • Retirement accounts, such as IRAs, Roth IRAs, 401(k)s
  • Pension(s)
  • Social Security payments
  • Real Estate holdings
  • Ownership or stake in a business
  • Taxable investments, like stock
  • Other savings

Ideally, you’ll want to bring this information to a financial advisor to get help in maximizing whatever resources Dad has accumulated (a geriatric care manager with financial training can also be helpful here). You can also learn a great deal at sites like Aging Parents, Retired Brains and the AARP.

For more information on the costs of dementia care, check out Paying for Senior Care.