If you or someone you love has a family history of Alzheimer’s or is exhibiting the first signs of Alzheimer’s, you may need to start looking for financial assistance. Alzheimer’s affects millions of aging and elderly people every year. While researchers are still discovering new treatment methods, there is still no cure available. As a result patients have no choice but to use preventative treatment and palliative care.
Depending on the treatment path you and your doctor pursue, there could be hefty costs involved. You may find yourself searching for financial assistance for Alzheimer’s patients. The sooner you have a financial plan in place, the better prepared you will be to take on the financial aspect of Alzheimer’s Disease.
We will cover some of the best options and resources to help pay for Alzheimer’s care. But first, let’s look at some of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s.
What are the early signs of Alzheimer’s?
Often used interchangeably with dementia, Alzheimer’s is a condition that primarily affects the brain and cognitive function. For this reason, Alzheimer’s is not a disease that leaves physical marks. Instead, you will have to observe the behavior of those you love (or have someone observe you) for early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. These signs will most often include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty making decisions or solving problems
- Lowered initiative
- Difficulty completing tasks quickly
- Repeated questions
- Wandering behavior or frequently becoming lost
- Misplacing items on a regular basis
- Difficulty interpreting words or images
- Problems with reading, speaking, or writing
It’s important to note that these issues could also be the result of a different underlying health issue. For this reason, it is important to get regular check-ups with your primary care physician to determine if you might be suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, which means that the signs and symptoms generally worsen with time. So once the disease sets in, treatment focuses on slowing down the symptoms so that you can enjoy normal cognitive function for as long as possible. However, at some point you will likely need to be put under the care of trained professionals at a long-term care facility or receive daily care from a trusted family member.
Does Medicare pay for Alzheimer’s care?
Most (though not all) people who are experiencing Alzheimer’s are older than 65 years of age, and therefore they may qualify for Medicare. For this reason, the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries want to know exactly what kind of financial help they can expect. Depending on the level of coverage you have (Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Part D, Medigap, etc), you can receive varying degrees of assistance from your Medicare policies. That said, most beneficiaries can expect the same level of coverage for their Alzheimer-related care.
During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, Medicare covers the basics. However costs can still be high given that Alzheimer’s is difficult to diagnose with certainty and requires various doctor’s visits and medical exams. That said, Medicare Part B does cover a large portion of the costs associated with visits to the doctor’s office and laboratory tests. Thus, you can expect to get about 80% of those costs covered when you and your doctor are first analyzing and diagnosing the condition.
If a diagnosis has been confirmed, your doctor may recommend psychological or even physical therapy. Either way, Part B will still cover 80% of the costs because your doctor has deemed them medically necessary. However, if you choose to pursue treatments on your own without the express consent of your doctor, Medicare will not cover them.
If you have a Medigap plan, this can help pay for some of the costs (like copays) that Part B does not cover. Additionally, many Alzheimer’s patients begin some form of drug treatment, which will only be covered by Medicare if you have a Part D plan. It’s also important to note that many Alzheimer’s medications and treatments are still in the trial stages, so there’s a chance that Medicare will not cover your care or medications, even if your doctor prescribes them.
Once late-stage Alzheimer’s has set in, greater degrees of care will be required. You will likely need 24/7 care at a skilled nursing facility or a live-in nurse at your home. Unfortunately, qualifying for Medicare coverage during this period can be tricky, as Medicare will only pay for a skilled nursing facility or an at-home nurse for 100 days following a stay at a hospital. This can make it complicated for families to pay for care, especially during the later stages of an Alzheimer patient’s life. For this reason it is good to look for additional ways to pay for care outside of the Medicare system.
Financial assistance for Alzheimer’s patients
Outside of private insurance or Medicare, there are only a few different ways to pay for your Alzheimer’s medical bills. We will take a look at some of the most common and useful methods and resources below:
- Retirement Savings – If you spent your working years saving for retirement, those 401k or IRA payouts could be exactly what you need to pay for Alzheimer’s care. However, these funds will be limited and will also help you pay for regular bills and expenses.
- Social Security – SSDI and SSI are specifically designed to help retirees pay their bills. While Medicare and Medicaid do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to retiree healthcare, Social Security can also help you fill in the blanks with the expenses of Alzheimer’s care.
- Community Programs – Finally, there are several private and state-funded programs to help for general elder care, including Alzheimer’s treatment. You can find local help in your area through the Alzheimer’s Association. You can also request assistance through Lifespan Respite Care and the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Finally, some states offer financial assistance for Alzheimer’s patients, including Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
If you’d like to find even more ways to get financial assistance for Alzheimer’s patients, be sure to check out our guide on how to get help with medical bills!