Seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions that attack the brain are a constant source of worry for their children and other concerned relatives. Dementia — the erosion of memory and of the ability to think and reason — compounds the difficulty associated with caring for an aging parent. Struggles to provide the assistance that seniors typically require with the activities of daily living, such as eating and dressing, are exacerbated by the need for increased vigilance to assure the senior’s safety.
Fear that Alzheimer’s will cause a senior to wander away from home often vexes children who act as caregivers. Changes in the way a senior interacts with loved ones can be equally stressful. In addition to memory loss and a deteriorating ability to communicate, seniors who suffer from dementia may experience delusions and paranoia, agitation and aggression, and other personality changes. Each of those symptoms poses a unique challenge for caregivers.
As medical science continues to increase lifespans, more children will confront the issue of aging parents who suffer from a form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors suffer from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia before they die. Treatment options focus on managing or slowing the disease rather than curing it. The questions for most children are how to assure the safety and comfort of parents suffering from Alzheimer’s and how to pay for that care.
Children of parents suffering from Alzheimer’s or another condition associated with dementia can either care for the senior at home or place the senior in an assisted living facility that specializes in memory care. Each option has advantages and disadvantages.
Family Care: Home care is the most affordable option, provided that someone is available to care for the senior at all times. Many families do not have that luxury, but if one or more family members are willing and available to care for the senior, that may be the right choice.
Home Health Aide: If family members cannot provide around-the-clock care, finding a home health aide who is trained to assist seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s and similar conditions may be the best solution for families who want a parent or grandparent to remain in their home. A home health aide can assist the senior at times when other family members are working or just need a break from the strain of caring for a parent who suffers from dementia.
Adult Day Care Centers: If family members are able to care for the senior in the evening but need to work during the day, adult day care centers provide an alternative to the services provided by a home health aide. The viability of that alternative depends upon the ability to transport the senior to the center, as well as the availability of a convenient adult day care center that accepts seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s.
Assisted Living Facilities: Home health aides and adult day care centers are less expensive options than placing the senior in an assisted living facility, but out-of-home placements are often a family’s best alternative. According to a 2012 survey by MetLife, about half of all assisted living facilities provide specialized care to residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Assisted living facilities that provide memory care usually offer the same services as other assisted living facilities (housekeeping, meals, and helping seniors with the activities of daily living) while taking into account the special needs that are unique to seniors who suffer from dementia. Memory loss facilities are designed to minimize the risk that a senior will wander away. Staff members are usually trained to reduce the stress of residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s. That specialized training is mandated by the laws of some states.
Nursing Homes: Most seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s do not need to reside in a nursing home. For seniors who combine dementia with a chronic disabling health condition, however, a nursing home might be appropriate. The 2012 MetLife survey found that 56 percent of nursing homes provide Alzheimer’s or dementia care, usually at the same rate they charge to patients who do not have those conditions. Most of those nursing homes have a separate wing or unit with enhanced security for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
While costs vary depending upon the level of care required and the part of the country in which services are offered, a recent survey suggests that the median nationwide fee charged by agencies that supply home health aides is $20 per hour. Since that median cost is not specific to home health aides who are trained to deal with seniors who suffer from dementia, you might expect to pay a bit more for specialized care.
The average daily cost of an adult day care center is $64, although the daily cost ranges from $25 to $100 depending on services provided and the location of the center. Again, you might expect the cost to be on the high end of that scale if you choose an adult day care center that focuses on seniors with Alzheimer’s.
While the nationwide average cost of an assisted living facility was $3,500 per month in 2014, that cost will generally be higher when the facility provides memory care services to a resident. According to the 2012 MetLife survey, the national average cost of assisted living care for a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia is $4,807 per month.
The cost of a memory care facility depends upon (among other factors) the state in which the facility is located. Here are some examples, taken from a 2012 survey:
Additional factors that have an impact on the cost of a memory care facility include the services that the facility provides and the size and quality of the apartment in which the senior will live.
According to the 2012 MetLife survey, the average daily cost of a nursing home that provides Alzheimer’s or dementia care is $230 for a semi-private room or $261 for a private room.
Affording the significant costs of any type of long-term care is a challenge for most people. Memory care adds on additional expenses associated with the special needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Most people will turn to Government benefits, insurance, and personal assets as a way to piece together the finances needed to provide their loved one with the help he or she needs.
Private Health Insurance: Private health insurance may or may not pay some of the costs associated with caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia. “Medical care” provided by a doctor is more likely to be covered than “nonmedical care” provided by a home health aide or memory care facility. It is important to read and understand the terms of the individual policy to be certain of the benefits that the policy provides to patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a similar condition.
Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-term care insurance may help pay for a memory care facility, for adult day care, or for a home health aide, subject to the payment limits specified in the policy. If a senior has long-term care insurance, family members or others who are assisting the senior should review the policy carefully to determine the scope of its coverage.
Medicare: Like private health insurance, government benefits are more likely to cover medical care than nonmedical care. That is particularly true of Medicare, although there are instances in which Medicare will pay for short-term assistance provided by home health aides. Medicare will not typically pay for long-term assisted living care, including Alzheimer’s or dementia care provided by memory care facilities.
Medicaid: State Medicaid and Medicaid waiver programs might pay for long-term memory care. The benefits are different in each state, although every state will pay for nursing home care that is provided to eligible seniors. Eligibility for Medicaid benefits differs from state to state. The benefits are generally available only to financially needy seniors who lack the resources to pay for their own care.