Alzheimer's disease affects as many as 5.3 million people in the United States; which means it affects as many as 5.3 million families, because Alzheimer's is a disease that affects everybody it touches - husbands, wives, children and grandchildren - they all bear witness to their loved one's slow demise.
Sadly, grief and emotional hardship are not the only stress that accompanies Alzheimer's disease; loved ones serving as caretakers carry a huge financial burden as well. According to this article by Denise Bonilla, "Most people cannot afford to privately pay out of their income. They're going to start spending their assets down and at some point they're going to lose all their assets. And that's the sad story for many."
In Massachusetts, the costs of caring for an Alzheimer's patient can average anywhere from $26 an hour for a home health aide to $113,150 a year for a nursing home, with costs running easily as high as $144,000 a year in the Metrowest. Because Alzheimer's disease can be such a long-lasting disease (a person can suffer from Alzheimer's for up to 20 years) the costs of care can end up being astronomical. A caregiver already burdened by the emotional and physical cost of helping their loved one just can't do it alone.
Options to help Alzheimer's patients pay for medical expenses are long-term care insurance or Medicaid [MassHealth in Massachusetts] (Medicare doesn't cover the cost of long-term care). Long-term care insurance can be very helpful...if you've thought ahead and purchased the policy before you or your spouse began suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer's. If long term insurance is not available or outside of your price range, the government programs are there to help...if you fall in the right category and understand how to navigate the complex system without losing everything.
Unfortunately, learning how to navigate the system is not something you can do in an hour or two. Because your experience will depend on a number of unique factors we can't give you an easy set of instructions to follow. The best advice we can give is to say that right now, the best way to navigate the Medicaid/MassHealth system is to find someone who knows the system to assist you. Our attorneys at the Estate Planning and Asset Protection Law Center help our clients with these issues on a regular basis. If you want to ensure that you and your loved ones will be cared for no matter what the future may bring, don't be afraid to ask us for help.