Learning of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be a terrifying thing. Most people don’t immediately think of their finances, or they put off thinking about their finances because it’s stressful and scary and they don’t know where to begin. Dementia and memory loss often lead to a need for an assisted living home, and unfortunately, assisted living homes (or private caregivers) aren’t free. If you or a loved one are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, here are some steps you can take to be financially prepared for all options.
- Organize all of your financial documents and take an inventory of all assets and debts that you have. There are many worksheets online that can help you organize all of this in one cohesive spot that is easy to read and easy for other people to decipher. Legal documents include: living wills, medical and durable powers of attorney, and wills. Financial documents include: bank and brokerage account information, deeds, mortgage papers or ownership statements, insurance policies, monthly or outstanding bills, pension and retirement benefit summaries, Social Security payment information, stock and bond certificates, and other sources of monthly income, such as rental property, sale of stocks, and interest.
- Know which family members should be included in your financial plans. Make sure you note who has knowledge of your finances and who may be receiving support from you in the chance you are able to provide financial help.
- Identify the costs of care. Do some research to find out how much assisted living homes or private caregivers are. Figure out what you are comfortable with and how much this will cost you if it becomes necessary. Research medical costs as well: know what your insurance covers and what you will need to pay out of pocket. Some common care costs are ongoing medical treatment for Alzheimer’s symptoms, diagnosis and follow-up visit, treatment or medical equipment for other medical conditions, safety-related expenses, such as home safety modifications or safety services, prescription drugs, personal care supplies, adult day services, in-home care services, and full-time residential care services
- Learn about income tax breaks that you may qualify for. Many people don’t even look into this and are missing out on money they could be saving.
- Check for government benefits. You may be eligible for benefits that help cover prescriptions or medical costs, transportation, or meals. Some of these include Medicare and Medicaid.
- If applicable to you, research veterans benefits. If you have served in the armed forces, there may be benefits available to you to help offset some of your costs.
- Choose a person who can help be in charge of your finances. This is the person who takes care of bills, benefits, taxes, and investment decisions should you no longer be able to make those decisions yourself. This should be a person you trust who is knowledgeable in financial areas. The importance of this step can’t be overstated. You must have someone (family member, attorney, power of attorney) able to take care of all of this for you in the event that you no longer can.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia bring a lot of unknowns. That’s why it’s important to take the stress out of as many situations as possible. If you are able to get your finances in order as soon as you are diagnosed, you can rest assured that one large area of your life is taken care of and let go of any anxiety surrounding money. If you are confused or don’t know where to start, enlist a friend or family member who may know a lot about finances and ask for their help. Don’t try and go it alone.