Q: My mom was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. What benefits does Medicare cover for this condition?
A: Unlike most of the top 10 causes of death, such as heart disease and cancer, which are covered in large part by Medicare, Alzheimer’s care comes with extraordinary costs that are not covered. Medicare covers medically necessary inpatient hospital care, doctor’s fees, outpatient services such as blood tests, and Part D covers many prescription drugs. However, a dementia diagnosis most often requires custodial care, like help bathing, eating, dressing, and supervision. Medicare does not cover custodial care.
The costs of custodial care pose a big challenge for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. According to a survey of long term care costs by Genworth Financial, Inc., a semi-private room in a nursing home can cost $7,148 a month, or $3,750 per month in an assisted living facility. Even a home health care aide costs $22 per hour. Many families work to put together a caregiving network with family, friends, churches and community services in the early stages of Alzheimer’s treatment.
As your mom moves through stages of Alzheimer’s, she will need more care over time. The medicines used to treat Alzheimer’s only control symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, but cannot cure the disease. The symptoms inevitably will get worse and because of this, eventually your mom will need more help than you can supply at home.
Here are some links to key resources to get you started on putting together your plan of care:
- Alzheimer’s Association: Planning for Care Costs, https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-common-costs.asp
- National Institute on Aging: Getting Help With Alzheimer’s Caregiving, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/getting-help-alzheimers-caregiving
- Medicare: What Medicare Covers, https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/index.html
The Senior Citizens League strongly supports the CHANGE Act, H.R. 4957, legislation that would encourage early assessment and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The legislation would provide patients and caregivers like you better support, and it would improve the delivery of comprehensive coordinated dementia care.
Source: Genworth 2017 Cost of Care Survey, Genworth Financial, Inc.