The Cost of Alzheimer’s

Like their lives back then, Steve and Peg’s plan was simple, one they could lay out with a pencil on the back of an envelope:  They would work hard. Save their money. Retire at 55. Then freedom.  “We thought we’d travel for maybe 10 years, while our knees could still handle it.” Steve said. “Then we’d settle down with a place in Florida and one up here, kind of like my folks did.  We did not see this monster coming.”.

That monster was — is–Alzheimer’s disease.  Steve, 68, and Peg, 67, hardly knew a thing about it.  It wasn’t part of the plan. So in 2007, when Steve noticed the phrase, “what-cha-call-it” creeping with ever more frequency into Peg’s sentences, the idea that a dementia of some kind was dismantling her vocabulary simply did not occur to him.

Peg is now living in a Memory Care unit at an Assisted Living Residence.  Peg’s care this year will cost Steve about $65,000 out-of-pocket. Peg and Steve worked hard.  They saved their money.  He’ll need to dip into their retirement savings, but he’ll be able to pay for Peg’s care.  But that wasn’t the plan.

More than 5 million Americans now have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of elderly dementia, and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s among baby boomers is expected to explode by mid-century.  The Alzheimer’s Association projects 10 million baby boomers will develop the disease. While studies and media stories explore the emotional toll on family and friends, the financial toll, which can also be devastating, is less understood.

In December 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association interviewed more than 3,500 people across the nation and asked them about the costs of caring for family members or friends with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

Here are just a few of the results:

*Two in five had to cut back on savings.  One in five dipped into retirement savings.

*One in five cut back on going to the doctor.  One in 10 cut back on their children’s educational expenses.

*Respondents said that to meet expenses, they sold vehicles, furniture, jewelry, collectibles, even homes.

*Income shrank even as expenses grew.  Respondents reported working fewer hours or taking early retirement to support someone with dementia.  Income losses averaged about $15,000.

*Some respondents said they met increased expenses by increasing the hours they worked, or took second jobs, postponed retirement or went back to work.

We all know someone — a friend, co-worker, family member, or loved one who has been affected by the emotional toll of Alzheimer’s.  Now we know how the financial toll heavily hits these same people.  The Southeastern Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association offers classes covering legal and financial planning. For more information, call (414) 479-8800. Or call the association’s 24/7 helpline (800) 272-3900.

–Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, June 12, 2016


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