As tax season approaches, consider the potential costs of Alzheimer’s

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By Jim Herlihy
Alzheimer’s Association

As tax day draws near and people are looking closely at their finances, the Alzheimer’s Association encourages families to proactively plan for the potential financial impact of the most expensive disease: Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

The numbers are staggering for the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only major disease without a prevention, treatment or cure: More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, including 76,000 Coloradans. Globally, the total is 50 million.

Total annual payments for U.S. families caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias exceed a third of a trillion dollars ($355 billion). For individual caregivers, average out-of-pocket costs for medical care, personal care and household expenses average $11,372 annually. And the cost of memory care can range from $5,000 to $10,000 per month.

“The financial toll of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is crippling,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. “Sadly, very few families are prepared for the cost of care, or realize how little of that cost is covered by insurance.”

A recent Alzheimer’s Association report found that nearly two out of three people incorrectly believe that Medicare helps pay for nursing home care, or were unsure whether it does.

Preparing for retirement — and Alzheimer’s

The challenge for families — particularly those where there may be a family history of Alzheimer’s that suggests a higher potential risk — is that the vast majority of people are already unprepared for the cost of a healthy retirement. For those affected by dementia, the impact could be devastating. 

“During tax season, we take stock of our financial resources,” said Schafer. “This is the ideal time to look at retirement planning and anticipate the possibility of long-term medical care. It is important to have financial and legal plans in place to address your wishes for future care.”

The Alzheimer’s Association encourages people to conduct an inventory of their financial resources, including savings, insurance, retirement benefits, government assistance and VA benefits, and to consult with a financial planner or elder care attorney to review options.

Tax benefits for
caregivers

Beyond anticipating future medical expenses, it is important for those who are serving as unpaid caregivers for loved ones to understand that they may be eligible for tax benefits from the Internal Revenue Service if they have paid some care costs out of their own pockets. Tax rules are complex and can change, so individuals are advised to consult with a tax adviser or accountant.

To learn more about financial and legal planning for Alzheimer’s caregivers, visit www.alz.org or call the Alzheimer’s Association free 24/7 helpline at (800) 272-3900. 

The urgent case
for finding an
Alzheimer’s cure

The financial impact of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias already is staggering for the U.S. collectively, and the cost is only expected to grow. Today, $1 of every $5 in Medicaid funds goes to provide care for persons living with dementia. Since Alzheimer’s is the only major disease without a prevention, treatment or cure, and our country’s population is aging, those numbers will only get worse. If no cure is found by 2050, it is estimated that $1 of every $3 in Medicaid funds will go toward dementia care.

“As the number of people living with dementia rises, the burden on our public health systems will be unsustainable,” said Schafer. “This only underscores the need for families to plan ahead. As time passes and until a cure is found, we can expect that we will need to assume an increasing share of the cost of care for our loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease. Planning for that is essential.” 

About the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter is the premier source of information and support for the more than 76,000 Coloradans with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and caregivers. 

The Alzheimer’s Association offers education, counseling, support groups and a 24-hour helpline at no charge to families. In addition, contributions help fund advancements in research to prevent, treat and eventually conquer this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association advocates for those living with Alzheimer’s and their families on related legislative issues, and with health and long-term care providers. For information, call the Alzheimer’s Association free 24/7 bilingual helpline at (800) 272-3900 or visit www.alz.org.