Feeling the Economic Pinch of Alzheimer’s Care

Eric J. Hall Health Guide
  • The other day, my social services team at the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) heard from a Floridian in search of services for her husband who has Alzheimer's disease. He is bed-bound and on intravenous medications, and she is concerned - probably frightened is more appropriate - about not having a generator and other essentials as the hurricane season approaches. Her issue: the couple lives on social security, which, she said, "isn't much."


    My team also heard from a woman up north who wants to leave her job so she can care for her mother with Alzheimer's disease. She's torn between needing a paycheck to repay an enormous debt and wanting to provide the best care for her mom. Her question: "Is there any help available?"

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    These types of appeals are not uncommon. Families regularly speak to the soaring cost of care and are looking for avenues for assistance. But what concerns me is the frequency that these requests are rolling in these days. Underlying their number and their tone is desperation. Real calls for help from real families in real dire straits. 


    What I am reading between the lines is that today's harsh economic times are impacting families who already had been squeezed by the financial burden of Alzheimer's care.   


    It's estimated that seven out of ten Americans with Alzheimer's disease live at home, and families pick up about 75 per cent of the cost. The annual cost of care ranges from more than $18,000 to $36,000, depending on the stage of the disease. Medications alone to treat Alzheimer's disease average $148 to $195 per month. The national average rate for adult day services is $61 per day. And home health aides average $19 per hour.


    These published statistics give a glimpse into skyrocketing healthcare costs, but the real story comes from the families affected. They don't want care to suffer, but their dollars - $4+ per gallon of gas, 50-cents to $1 more per loaf of bread than a year ago,  etc. - are being stretched to the max. They are truly struggling to fund Alzheimer's care.


    There have been lots of articles lately about the impact of today's grim economy: I just read one, for example, about how manufacturers are feverishly marketing products to appeal more to consumers who will be spending their summer in their backyards rather than on the road; and another about how couples in marital strife are staying together because they can't afford separate roofs over their heads.


    Add Alzheimer's disease to the list.


    As families adjust their daily lives to deal with the financial impact of this disease, I encourage them - now more than ever - to look for available resources that can ease the load.


    Here is just one example: obtaining a limited number of hours of free or reduced-rate respite care. For example, AFA offers a family respite care grant, with applications available through our nonprofit member organizations. In addition, we recently awarded grants to two or our member organizations, Alzheimer & Parkinson Association of Indian River County, Inc., Vero Beach, FL, and Senior Concerns, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, to fund respite care scholarships for those in need. Other organizations, AFA affiliated or not, also have these types of programs.

Published On: June 04, 2008