Your Guide to Paying for Alzheimer's Disease CareNo matter how prepared you may think you are, long-term care and end-of-life care require a massive investment of money that may be spread out over months or even years. This can be even more impactful if you or a loved one begins to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some ways you can begin to think about covering the cost of care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, including the amount of assistance you can expect from Medicare and Medicaid, types of alternative funding options and insurance, and how to save for self-pay if alternative methods still do not cover the complete cost.

How much can you expect from Medicare?

While Medicare is useful for hospital care, surgery, and certain screening services (the exact specifications of what Medicare covers depend entirely on your personal Medicare plan – check the specifics of your plan for more details), its coverage options tend to fall short when it comes to long-term care.  While over half of seniors, according to a recent study, expect Medicare to pay the majority or the entirety of their long-term care fees, Medicare only covers temporary stays in care facilities, and only then in very specific circumstances (which depend on your plan).  The level of care it provides is “skilled,” which refers to the kind of services provided by a skilled nurse or physical therapist.  Medicare will not take care of the cost of custodial care – that is, the form of care that provides assistance with basic services like getting dressed, bathing, and eating.

Since the majority of Alzheimer’s care requires basic services rather than specialized care, that means that you will have to find other means of paying for long-term care.  Medicare supplements or Medicare Advantage plans may be able to offer additional services if you qualify.  Medicare Advantage plans are offered by companies like Humana and can fill in some of the gaps that are not covered by basic Medicare, like prescriptions and dental work.

Medicaid can help if you qualify

For people who qualify, Medicaid may be able to help pay for long-term care, whether it is based out of a nursing home or through a qualified nurse or caregiver at home.  It can also help with laundry and cleaning services if you or your loved one are unable to take on the tasks yourself.  Medicaid will not, however, pay for your rent, mortgage, or utilities, nor will it cover the cost of food.  Also, the qualification requirements are stringent and require that your income fall between a certain set of numbers.

How to reduce the total cost

Regardless of if you qualify for Medicaid, you will probably have to fund a good portion of the cost yourself.  You can help keep costs down by seeking out less expensive paths – for instance, ask your doctor for generic brand prescriptions instead of name brand prescriptions.  Frequently, the only difference between generic and name brand pills is in the name.  Your doctor may also be able to recommend less expensive forms of care, like hiring a nurse to check in occasionally throughout the day instead of hiring a specialized nurse to live in the house with your loved one.  Another way you can protect your loved one’s assets is by investing in final expense insurance.  Get it early to keep the premiums low – that way, you will be able to cover medical bills and funeral costs without dipping into the remainder of your savings.

By looking for less expensive payment options and making the most of Medicaid and Medicare Advantage plans, you will be able to reduce the financial impact of extended Alzheimer’s care.  Remember that there are always solutions, even in the most difficult times.

by June D., author of The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers

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