Alzheimer's Disease: What It Really Costs

If someone you love has received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it often takes a while for the shock to wear off. When reality starts to set in, your mind may wander to thoughts about how much it will cost. How will you find the money to pay for the things your loved one will need when he or she is living at home? The tab for things like medical care, drugs, home care, items to keep your loved one safe, and home renovations can add up quickly. If you reach the point where long-term care is needed, how will you pay for it?

To bring this overwhelming problem into focus, we consulted with Linda Strohschein, attorney and founder of Strohschein Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in St. Charles, Illinois. As an elder law attorney, she sees families in this situation every day of the week.

How much does Alzheimer’s care cost in a long-term care setting? According to Linda, it depends on where you live. “Where I am, about an hour west of Chicago, a nursing home averages about $10,000 per month,” she notes. “For clients who live farther west in more rural areas, it’s often quite a bit less, more like $6,000 per month. People on Chicago’s North Shore will pay the most—up to $15,000 per month. It’s crazy how expensive it is. Most people simply can’t afford it.”

When family caregivers realize that Medicaid is the only hope they have of paying for a loved one’s care, many are motivated by fear. “The adult children will call us and ask, ‘So how do we hide the money?’ Linda explains. “The family might have $100,000 left, but they can do the math. They can see that if long-term care costs $10,000 a month, the money will be gone in less than a year.”

Linda has tremendous compassion for families in this situation. “Instead of finding ways to hide the money, we show them that there are legitimate legal planning methods that can protect a portion of the assets,” she notes. “Families can’t count on long-term care facilities to help them protect the older adult’s assets because those facilities have one objective: to maximize their bottom line and protect their own profits.”

The cost of long-term care in a facility isn’t the only expense that can add up quickly. The care provided by family members while the elder is living at home can be costly in ways that are easy to overlook. Linda sees it every day. “I have clients, especially the spouses, who will hang on until the very end because they feel like that's what they're supposed to do for their spouse. They take their vows literally.”

Family caregivers in that situation often won’t seek the help or advice of a Life Care Planning Law Firm because they don’t think they need it. But there’s still a bill to pay—just not in dollars. The cost is in the health of the spouse who’s providing care.

That cost can be very high. “Many people wait to come see us until their loved one needs nursing home care,” Linda adds. “They are blind to the costs of the unpaid care that the spouse or primary caregiver is providing. They don’t realize that we can ease the burdens on the primary caregiver. If the caregiver gets sick or burns out, things will get very expensive very quickly.”