Dementia Costs Soar at End of Life
Families of a loved one with dementia spend at least twice as much out of pocket than they might if that person had another disease, according to a study published in the _Annals of Internal Medicine. _
The U.S. study showed that the average family expense of caring for a loved one with dementia was $61,522 over five years. By comparison, families who weren’t caring for someone with dementia spent $34,068.
To assess the financial toll dementia takes on families, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York analyzed Medicare spending and out-of-pocket costs for about 1,700 people aged 70 and older who died between 2005 and 2010.
Over the five years prior to each patient’s date of death, the average total cost, including what Medicare covered as well as what families paid, was about $287,000 for dementia patients. That compares with roughly $175,000 for heart disease, $173,000 for cancer, and $197,000 for people who died of other causes.
Many of the daily costs associated with caring for a dementia patient, such as supervision, bathing and feeding, aren’t covered by Medicare. Unfortunately, incurring significant out of pocket expenses often means there is little money left for the caregiver, and to invest in younger members of the family.
The data also showed that the financial toll of caring for a loved one with dementia, based on proportion of wealth spent, was even more pronounced for patients who were black, had less than a high school education, or women who were widowed or unmarried.
According to experts, the mistake many families make is thinking that Medicare will cover long-term care services. They recommend that more consideration needs to be given to long term care insurance. They also recommend that insurance policies be amended so that payments can be made to family members who have chosen to be dementia caregivers.