A recent The New York Times article, "Costs for Dementia Care Far Exceeding Other Diseases, Study Finds," reports that for many families, the cost of caring for a dementia patient will in many cases consume all of their household wealth.
Most families just aren't prepared for the financial burden of dementia. They assume that Medicare cover all of the expenses. Not so. Patients and their families don't realize that isn't the case. Plus, everything gets more complicated when an individual has dementia.
For example, if a dementia patient in a nursing home gets a fever, the staff may say that they aren't equipped to handle it. They call 911. The patient is then admitted to the hospital. This can lead to complications for the patient suffering from dementia. They may get delirious and confused, slip or fall out of bed and sustain injuries, or they choke on their food. This can cause medical costs to sky-rocket.
There are large disparities in out-of-pocket costs for the three diseases. Medicare covers discrete medical services like office visits and acute care, including hospitalization and surgery. These are the types of expenses experienced by cancer patients and heart patients. Those patients usually don't need full-time home or nursing home care until the very end of their life, if at all. As a result, they don't see that continuing cost. On the other hand, dementia patients need constant care for years. In addition, these dementia patients may not be sick enough for a nursing home, but they still will need supervision and care.
When dementia patients are sick enough for a nursing home, the cost is not covered by health insurance. More than half of patients with dementia— with three-quarters of those from racial minorities—spend down, using savings to pay for the nursing home until the money is all gone. After that, Medicaid takes over.
Talk with an experienced elder law attorney about care for the elderly, Medicaid, and dementia. He or she will have ideas on how to best address your family's situation.
Reference: The New York Times (October 26, 2015) "Costs for Dementia Care Far Exceeding Other Diseases, Study Finds"