Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.  Its symptoms, which include an increasing inability to remember or think rationally, get worse as the disease progresses.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some 5.4 million American’s suffer from Alzheimer’s, 5.2 million of whom are 65 or older.  For those afflicted with the disease and their family caregivers, the impact can be devastating, both personally and financially.

The Cost of Alzheimer’s Treatment

This year alone, Alzheimer’s cost the nation more than $200 billion.  On average, the annual cost of treating someone with Alzheimer’s is over $60,000.  For those with the ability to pay, this could be a significant financial challenge.  For those struggling financially, it could mean going hungry.

The good news is that there are resources to help Alzheimer’s patients and their families defray the costs associated with the disease.  Here are 5 tips to help pay for Alzheimer’s treatment:

Begin financial planning immediately following the diagnosis:  because Alzheimer’s worsens over time, its initial symptoms at the time of diagnosis tend to be relatively minor.  This can lead to complacency and putting off the financial planning necessary to prepare for more robust care down the road.  Your first step should be to schedule a meeting with a competent financial planner who can help you sort out your options, or to call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Help Line for help and advice.

Find out if your family member is eligible for Medicaid or other government benefits: although Medicaid doesn’t generally pay for home care by unskilled professionals, it does in many cases pay for some or all nursing home costs, as well as other costs associated with Alzheimer’s treatment.  The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 gave states the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals making 138% or less of the Federal Poverty Level ($16,394 a year in 2016).  If you live in one of the states which expanded coverage, find out if you meet eligibility requirements.  You should also check out other government benefit programs for which you might be eligible, including food stamps and Supplemental Security Income.

Check out benefits offered by local organizations:  many local organizations offer financial help to poor and elderly residents of their districts.  For example, you might be eligible for Meals on Wheels, transportation for medical visits or home care.  Get in touch with the local office of the U.S. Administration on Aging for more information about the benefits offered in your area.

Get cash from your life insurance policy: If you’ve been paying premiums on a life insurance policy for many years, it can be worth a good deal of cash that you can use to help pay for treatment.  Depending on your individual circumstances, you have several options, including cash withdrawals and selling the policy outright.  If you opt to sell your policy (called a life settlement), you typically receive a cash payout which is less than the amount of the death benefit, but more than the cash surrender value.  Be sure to check with a financial planner or accountant on any taxes for which you might be liable before you act.

Look into benefits for veterans:  if you or one of your parents served in the armed forces, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a number of services for Alzheimer’s patients.  This could include such benefits as home care, payment to a home health aide, outpatient care, hospital stays, and hospice care.

Conclusion

Dealing with the daily stresses of Alzheimer’s disease can take a tremendous personal toll on both the Alzheimer’s patient and his or her family members.  There’s no reason to exacerbate that stress with financial worries without first considering all the potential resources available to you.  Be sure to plan early, work with a competent financial professional and take the time to research all of the options available to you.