Primary care physicians with patients who support loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease should be aware of both the financial and health-related tolls involved with taking on such responsibilities, as a new report has indicated that Alzheimer’s caregivers are 28% more likely to eat less or go hungry, and one-fifth sacrifice their own medical care.
The 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report states that nearly 50% of those who provide dementia-related care for friends or family members with Alzheimer’s disease cut back on their own expenses to take on the cost. That often means spending less on their own food, transportation and medical care, and can sometimes lead them to quit their job or reduce their own hours to make time to provide the necessary care.
“The devastating emotional and physical effects of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease have been well studied,” Beth Kallmyer, MSW, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association, said. However, this new report shows, for the first time, the enormous personal and financial sacrifices that millions of care contributors make every day. These sacrifices jeopardize the financial security of individuals and families, as well as their access to basic needs and health care.”
According to the report, 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, with nearly 16 million family members and friends of patients acting as caregivers, providing either financial, physical or emotional support. On average, these contributors spent more than $5,000 of their own money per year to care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, the report said.
In addition, two out of three caregivers incorrectly believe, or are not sure, that Medicare will help them cover the cost of a nursing home. According to the report, only 3% of adults in the United States have long-term care insurance, which may help cover the costs. The report also states that one-third of caregivers reported having to reduce their hours at work or quit their job, leading to an average loss of income of approximately $15,000 compared to the previous year. Also, 11% reported reducing their spending on their children’s education in order to care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with the report, the Alzheimer’s Association released a series of recommendations for caregivers, including:
- using retirement planning as a time to think about how best to prepare for the need for long-term or dementia-related care;
- conducting a personal financial resource inventory, reviewing savings, insurance, benefits and available assistance;
- looking into local long-term care services; and,
- contacting the local Agency on Aging to determine what community services and support programs are available.
“Our findings show that very few people are prepared for the cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and is expected to nearly triple in prevalence by 2050,” Kallmyer said. “It is imperative for our health care system and the financial security of millions of Americans that we help people understand the full costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and more importantly, that we provide practical steps to mitigate these costs.”
The full 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report is available at http://alz.org/facts.
For more information on Alzheimer’s care, contact Spring Arbor.