By Jim Herlihy | Alzheimer’s Association
One in nine Americans age 65 and older — including 76,000 Coloradans — are among the 6.5 million people across the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Beyond the tremendous physical toll the disease takes on diagnosed individuals as well as family members who provide care for them, the costs associated with the disease can be overwhelming, putting a huge financial strain on families.
An analysis by the Alzheimer’s Association outlined the enormous personal and financial sacrifices many families and caregivers make in order to care for their loved ones living with dementia. Frequently, those disease-related costs will jeopardize a family’s financial security. The analysis found:
• In 2021, the lifetime cost of care for a person living with dementia was $377,621.
• Nearly half (48 percent) of care contributors must cut back on their own expenses — including basic necessities like food, transportation and medical care — to afford dementia-related care for loved ones, while others must draw from their own savings or retirement funds.
• The average volunteer will donate 27.1 hours per week to care for their loved one.
Frequently, this will require the individual to cut back on work. Statistics from National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP include:
• 61 percent of caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving.
• 49 percent arrive to their place of work late/leave early/take time off.
• 15 percent take a leave of absence.
• 14 percent reduce their hours/take a demotion.
• 7 percent receive a warning about performance/attendance.
• 5 percent turn down a promotion.
• 4 percent choose early retirement.
• 3 percent lose job benefits.
• 6 percent give up work entirely.
• Nearly two out of three people incorrectly believe that Medicare helps pay for nursing home care or are unsure if it does.
• The average unpaid family caregiver will spend $12,388 annually out of their own pocket to cover costs ranging from medications to food.
To help families navigate these and other financial challenges, the Alzheimer’s Association launched a free online education program, “Managing Money: A Caregiver’s Guide to Finances.” Tips from the program include:
• Plan early. There are many benefits of planning early when it comes to your finances — both for the caregiver and the person with the disease.
• Start a positive discussion about finances. Bring in trusted family members or close friends for a discussion about what the person with the disease wants for the future.
• Avoid financial abuse and fraud. Individuals living with dementia have a greater risk of becoming victims and may struggle with making good financial decisions.
• Organize your finances. Conduct an inventory of your financial resources (savings, insurance, retirement benefits, government assistance, VA benefits, etc.). A financial planner or elder care attorney can help.
• Create a backup plan. Designate a trusted back-up agent for the person’s power of attorney and consider designating responsibilities to more than one person.
“It’s not uncommon for caregivers to experience financial problems because they have to reduce their hours or take time off work,” said Meg Donahue, director of Community Engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. “As the disease progresses, caregivers will need to pay for services or support for the person living with Alzheimer’s. Financial literacy is especially important for caregivers, because it provides them with the knowledge and skills needed to better support themselves and others.”
For more information on financial planning, visit www.alz.org.