Today one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Yet Alzheimer's -- which can last anywhere from two years to two decades -- is rarely at the center of most discussions on retirement finances.
How can you help a stricken loved one cope financially with this chronic and often long-term disease? Here are seven tips that can help ease the process.
With Alzheimer's disease, patients and their families can face a long, difficult journey as the disease progresses. Mary Barnes, executive director of Alzheimer's Community Care in West Palm Beach, Florida, says that acceptance of the disease is a crucial first step to dealing with it.
"(Alzheimer's) disease can last two to 20 years, with the average being 10," says Barnes. "It is so important for family to reach out and learn what the resources are and not be in denial."
Reaching out to local support groups, senior resource hotlines and the Alzheimer's Association can help you find the best care for a loved one.
Alzheimer's Community Care runs nine dementia-specific day centers in South Florida. Family nurse consultants are available to counsel families, and social workers visit the families of every Alzheimer's patient enrolled in the day centers. Scholarships are available to Alzheimer's patients of limited means.
"It's an ongoing process because we not only have to go with the progression of the disease with the patient, we have to worry about what's going on with the caregiver," Barnes says.
There are many care and financial decisions to make for an Alzheimer's patient as the disease progresses, but qualified professionals can help guide patients and their families through these difficult choices.
Don't wait to create a financial plan for caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease. Because of the potential length of the disease, it's important to minimize expenses from the beginning to limit the disease's overall cost.