Oscars shine light on Alzheimer's and its costs

This disease may be on of the biggest financial events in your family's life.

By Liz Skinner

Feb 23, 2015 @ 12:43 pm EST


Alzheimer's disease made it squarely into the nation's popular culture this year with its Oscar-winning leading lady, Julianne Moore, playing an early-onset patient in Still Alice, and an Oscar-nominated song crafted by a sufferer himself, Glen Campbell.

Now some argue it's time for the degenerative illness to become a core subject of financial planning.

Both the cost of care for Alzheimer's patients — estimated at between $40,000 to $60,000 a year — and the five to 20 years someone can live with the disease, make it one of the most significant financial events a family may ever have to deal with, said Charles Fuschillo, Jr., chief executive of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

How Much Would You Spend If Family Member Develops Alzheimer's?

Early detection of Alzheimer's would allow for better financial planning.

Over time, patients will need either a specialty care facility or trained professionals coming into the home to provide bathing and other types of help.

“You never think you're going to get Alzheimer's, or cancer, or any disease,” Mr. Fuschillo said. “So, many people don't have long-term-care insurance or any kind of planning in general that takes into consideration this 'what if.'”

In the days after someone is diagnosed, families need knowledgeable financial professionals they can turn to for help. That means knowing about the progression of the disease and what resources might be available to help at different stages. And it can help to discuss costs that will be covered by insurance versus those that will mostly be endured by caregivers.

“When someone is afflicted, there are a lot of unknowns for the patient and for the caregivers,” Mr. Fuschillo said. “They need help knowing what everyday life will be like.”

Advisers can help by discussing these issues with clients:

1. Home safety

Caregivers will need to make changes in the home the patient resides in to keep them protected as the disease progresses. This may include deadbolts for the doors, cabinet locks for those containing cleaning products, alarms for the stove and refrigerator, or more substantial home remodeling to make care easier.

2. Estate planning decisions

It's important to talk about how you would like to be cared for and by whom, as well as end-of-life issues, before the disease advances too severely.

3. Products and technologies that may offer solutions

Different companies have created medical ID bracelets with tracking devices, automatic pill dispensers, picture phones, special clocks that help people keep track of time and many other products that can help make care easier.

4. Emergency preparation

Have a recent photo of a loved one in case they are out and forget where they live. Investigate whether local police departments or other agencies have programs specifically designed to help with patients who might forget where they are or where they live, such as one established in Sarasota, Fla.

5. Finding help

Learn about the facilities in the area that offer eldercare and dementia care, as well as national Alzheimer's resources to offer specialized help.

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