Loved Ones With Alzheimer's: The Cost of Care

According to The Alzheimer's Association, 5.4 million Americans aged 65 and older, or one out of every eight adults, are currently living with Alzheimer's.

Further staggering statistics from this organization show that over 15 million Americans provide unpaid care valued at $120 billion for persons with Alzheimer's and other dementias. As the disease progresses, an increased level of care or assistance is required, and while a family may wish to care for their loved one at home for as long as possible, a person suffering from the disease will eventually need 24-hour supervised care.

Memory care, a care type providing unique and intensive assistance to seniors with dementia conditions, has quickly become one of the fastest growing segments of senior care options. It is also quite costly. In fact, this year alone, the Alzheimer's Association reported that an estimated $200 billion will be paid for Alzheimer's care in the United States alone.

As the disease becomes more prevalent, it's important that families and caregivers are equipped with knowledge about Alzheimer's and memory care and understand the costs associated with the various forms of specialized care.

The first aspect to know is that in general, memory care costs are higher than other types of senior care. Two reasons for this are that memory care requires a robust, specially-trained staff and generally a purpose-built facility to provide intensive medical care and to ensure the safety of all residents. According to A Place for Mom data, the national average monthly cost of memory care in 2012 has been $4,678. This figure can vary depending on specific factors, such as:

• Level of care needed • Size of room • Whether a room is private or semi-private • Geographical location of the community

The following chart shows a comparison between the national average monthly cost of memory care and other types of senior living and care options. Skilled nursing facilities, also known as nursing homes, are typically the most expensive, because they require constant medical care and heightened assistance with basic living activities.

Source: A Place for Mom, 2012

Deciding when it's time to move a loved one to residential care is a very tough decision, but communities with Alzheimer's care and memory care offer specialized support for residents. Individualized programs incorporate the interests, experiences and hobbies of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, greatly improving their outlook and daily engagement. These communities also offer personalization options that will help residents feel more comfortable in their new environment.

Ultimately, preparing for this type of transformation in a loved one's life will require careful attention to many details. Fortunately, several resources exist to help ease the burden of tough decisions and tasks. Meet with a doctor to assess the level of care needed. Check with your local aging offices or Senior Living Advisors to understand what options are available in your area. These resources can help you assess the decisions ahead and determine the right path for your family.