Dementia is a disease that is becoming increasingly prevalent among our senior population. The Alzheimer’s Association has stated that approximately 1 in 9 people over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Dementia patients encompass those with Alzheimer’s but also includes other brain impairments with symptoms of memory disorder, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. As the population of those above 65 years old continues to rise, the population of dementia patients is on the rise as well.
There are several care options for dementia patients. One of the more popular options is a memory care unit in an assisted living facility. Although the cost of a memory care unit can be several thousand dollars per month, the benefit of that cost should not be overlooked. As a resident, the individual will receive nutritious meals and snacks every day, which is recognized as both a contributing factor and a symptom of dementia. The resident will live in a secured facility, with alarms on the doors to protect potential flight risks from running. Residents are engaged with activities, including activities that are intended to encourage their long-term memory and stimulate their social involvement. Some assisted living facilities offer secured outdoor spaces so that residents can experience the independence and fresh air outside without the risk of harm that a general outdoor space may create.
Another popular option to care for dementia patients is by hiring in-home caregivers or home health agencies. These services can be highly beneficial for seniors who may fear leaving his or her home, but who cannot safely continue to reside at home without assistance. Home health or private caregivers can provide varying levels of care, including household cleaning, meal preparation and grocery shopping, toileting and bathing assistance, and even around-the-clock care. For homebound patients, many families additionally opt for an emergency button that seniors wear in case of a fall.
Unfortunately, the costs of these options may prevent many families from considering their benefits. In many cases, family members attempt to shoulder the full responsibility of caring for a loved one themselves. Family members may move the senior between their homes, move a family member (often a grandchild) into the senior’s home to care for him or her, or move the senior into an adult child’s home. In those cases, family members quickly go from being a child to being a caregiver. Many caregivers describe this transition as becoming the parent to their elderly parent.
There are some benefits available to help pay for care costs. The Home and Community Based Waiver program is a Medicaid program that will help cover costs for in-home care. Qualification is needs-based, but unlike other Medicaid programs, there is no lookback period.
Another excellent benefit is the Veteran’s Special Monthly Pension, which will provide an additional pension to war-time veterans and their surviving spouses to assist with payments for recurring medical expenses, including assisted living facilities. Like the Home and Community Based Waiver program, the Special Monthly Pension is a needs-based benefit and currently has no lookback period.
If a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, do not wait to prepare for long-term care needs. Find a care program that you feel is best for your family member and seek out resources to pay for that care. Taking a proactive approach can lead to less stress on family and better care for your loved one.