Legal Planning: Greater Costs for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care
Planning for the costs of elder care is a crucial element to one’s estate plan, particularly as the costs of elder care continue to rise. Cognitive impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s impose significant care expenses on the aging population, greater than the costs accrued in relation to many other afflictions or conditions that affect the elderly. End-of-life treatments in particular cost 81 percent more for dementia patients than others, according to a new study funded by the National Institute on Aging.
Why are care costs so much higher for dementia patients? Part of elder care legal planning includes review of public benefit programs, insurance coverage, and other sources available to cover care costs. Oftentimes dementia is not covered by insurance, and Medicare coverage is limited. (Equipment and home care services generally are not covered by Medicare). This places the financial burden on the individual requiring care and/or their family.
Additionally, dementia has no cure. Unlike other diseases and medical conditions that can be treated and potentially cured or improved, dementia patients require ongoing specialized care. Often the care needs become greater over time, resulting in mounting medical expenses for the patient and their family.
Dementia and memory loss also contribute to financial vulnerabilities outside of health care. A growing number of marriage scams targeting the elderly
have occurred in recent years. An individual could take advantage of a senior with cognitive impairments and deplete assets intended to support long-term care costs. Elderly individuals could also be victims of financial scams, with individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia being vulnerable to influence by scammers to transfer funds, property, and more.
For these reasons, it is important to include a financial power of attorney when developing an elder care plan. Should an individual develop dementia or Alzheimer’s and be deemed incompetent, the power of attorney provides a reliable alternative authority for the appointed agent to oversee financial matters and assets—preventing the senior from potentially compromising assets. Also, an elder law attorney can suggest methods of titling and structuring assets to prevent mismanagement, ensure eligibility for government benefits, and preserve assets for future generations.
By Attorney Katie Muhlenkamp