How to offset the costs of caring for someone with dementia

November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, and as if on cue a new study has revealed that dementia is the most expensive disease in terms of healthcare costs. The report, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined the social costs and financial risks encountered by Medicare beneficiaries 5 years before dying and found that “average total cost per decedent with dementia ($287 038) was significantly greater than that of those who died of heart disease ($175 136), cancer ($173 383), or other causes ($197 286).” Moreover, “average out-of-pocket spending for patients with dementia ($61 522) was 81% higher than that for patients without dementia ($34 068).”

The main reason for this disparity is that people with dementia require services provided by one or more caregivers that are not covered by Medicare. “Many costs related to daily care for patients with dementia are not covered by health insurance, and these care needs, including everything from supervision to bathing and feeding, may span several years,” study author Dr. Amy Kelley of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York said in an email. In fact, Medicare covers office visits, acute care such as hospitalization and surgery, and other discrete services, but not long-term care services like home or nursing home care that cancer and heart patients seldom need on a full-time basis – and if so, it is often only at the very end. On the other hand, dementia patients need constant supervision, even if they are not sick enough to be placed in a nursing home – and if they are, that expenditure is on the person and their families.

Tips to save on caring for someone with dementia

·         Get cheap medical supplies. Since most of dementia care involves providing assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and feeding, it makes sense to resort to a medical supply store online such as Discount Medical Supplies, where daily living aids are available at the lowest guaranteed prices. Given that dementia caregivers can’t count on Medicare anyway, why not give this a shot?


·         Hire an expert. Though this may sound counterintuitive, a professional may actually help you save money down the line. Consider the following:


What they do

Healthcare providers

·         Although they can’t act as legal or financial advisors per se, they can promote planning discussions between patients and their families, as well as guide patients, families, caregivers, attorneys and judges concerning the ability of the patient to make decisions.

Elder law attorneys

·         Interpret state laws.

·         Explain financial options.

·         Explain the best way to preserve financial assets when caring for a loved one with dementia.

Geriatric care managers

·         Discuss difficult and complex issues.

·         Address emotional concerns.

·         Plan in the short and long-term.

·         Choose care staff.

·         Coordinate medical services.

·         Assess living arrangements.

·         Offer caregiver stress relief.


·         Recruit volunteers. Experts are not the only one who can help you. Friends and relatives can be of invaluable assistance, especially since they ideally will not charge you for their help. You may have to separate the wheat from the chaff and find people who are actually willing and able to lend a hand but may not know how to. They don’t even need to provide trained nursing services; doing chores for you such as cleaning around, mowing the lawn, shopping for groceries, etc. may give you a much needed respite so you can focus on your caregiving duties. Conversely, they can watch the patient and keep them company while you take a break.


·         Search the field for local services. People with dementia, in particular elderly ones, may qualify for local services and benefits in your community – even simple ones like a senior citizen discount. Look for services in your area such as Meals on Wheels, Veteran’s benefits – if applicable – home care, adult day care, and nursing homes. Eldercare Locator is the perfect place to start your search. Also ask the human resources department at your place of work.

Related: Alz Caregiver: 23 Resources to Relieve Stress and Anxiety