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Families bear most of the cost of dementia care

As adults, we grow increasingly more aware of the costs of long-term medical care as we age. However, when confronted with this potentially unpleasant new information, we are prone to set it aside. Thinking about what we might do for ourselves or a loved one in need of long-term care isn't an easy topic to discuss and plan around, but it is necessary when considering the real costs.

A new study from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society outlines the long-term care costs of an adult with dementia compared to those without. According to the research, caring for the five million Americans with dementia costs more than $300,000 per person and families bear two-thirds of the cost. This amount is more than 130 percent higher than caring for a person without dementia.

A closer look at the numbers

A closer examination at the outlook of dementia can give us a better idea of how to plan for it. According to JAGS, the average age of diagnosis came at 83 years old. Then, the average life expectancy following a diagnosis is five to seven years, according to Unforgettable.org. These numbers mean that families must be prepared to take on $30,000 to $45,000 per year for care after assistance from Medicaid and Medicare.

Why is the cost so high?

Dementia care requires specialized treatment and facilities. In its later stages, dementia patients may need monitoring and care up to 24 hours per day. Further, according to JAGS, families use informal treatment and out-of-pocket payment methods to care for a condition that may be best treated using a formal long-term care plan and facility.

How can families prepare for the cost and treatment?

The single biggest factor in determining risk for dementia is age. If you have a family history of dementia, it may be more likely due to a longer life expectancy than the inheritability of the condition itself.

Although calculating your likelihood of dealing with a disease that could require long-term care like dementia may be left up to chance, you can have a clearer picture of a care plan for yourself and your loved ones by using the tools available through estate planning.

To help manage the care and costs associated with dementia, you can use one or a combination of the following legal documents:

  • Durable power of attorney
  • Guardianship
  • Revocable living trust

Starting a long-term care plan or writing one into an already existing estate plan should come with careful guidance from a legal professional. With awareness of these tools, families can confront the costs of dementia care proactively.

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