A dementia diagnosis takes a huge toll on a family’s finances

By Alan Mozes HealthDay Reporter

(Health Day)

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 18, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Dementia could take a big bite out of Americans’ bank accounts, robbing them of 60% of their net worth, a new study says. patient for 8 years after diagnosis.

Researchers who studied thousands of older adults with and without brain disorders found that the average dementia patient will have to pay twice as much in out-of-pocket health care costs over the next eight years. that first year.

We found profound differences in financial status between the two [patient] One scenario for onset of dementia and one scenario for no onset, said lead author HwaJung Choi. She is a research associate professor in the University of Michigan School of Medicine and School of Public Health.

The magnitude and duration of the difference were truly surprising to us, added Choi, who is also a faculty member at UM’s Institute for Social Research.

The team found dementia also placed significant demands on family members, with relatives having to provide an average of about 45 hours of care per month at the end of two years compared to 13 hours for people without dementia.

In this study, investigators analyzed the financial health data of more than 4,800 men and women aged 55 and older. All were participating in an ongoing biennial survey called the Health and Retirement Study, and were free of dementia at the time of enrollment.

Between 1998 and 2018, nearly half were diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

While people with dementia saw out-of-pocket health care costs skyrocket and their total net worth plummet, those without dementia, researchers found memory throughout the study found little change in the size of their egg budget or health care bills. .

Choi noted that on average, out-of-pocket medical spending increased from $4,000 to $8,000 within eight years of a dementia diagnosis, while total net worth decreased from $80,000 down to 60,000 USD in just the first two years.

These are quite large sums, she emphasized, especially when we consider that the average annual income of the study sample was about $23,000.

One reason dementia patients fall into financial trouble is that they are more likely to have to spend money on home health care that Medicare does not fully reimburse.

Because of physical and cognitive, or mental, decline, Choi explains that people with dementia may need help getting dressed, getting in and out of bed, going to the bathroom, and bathing. “Therefore, long-term, comprehensive care is often necessary for people with dementia to support daily activities as well as medical conditions,” she said.

Long-term care services can cost several thousand dollars per month, Choi said. The financial burden that ensues can affect those in the patient’s immediate social orbit, the team found.

Some people may rely on relatives for care, but nearly 1 in 3 patients without a spouse or child to care for them are living in a nursing home 8 years after diagnosis.

Choi said Medicaid may cover some of the costs of home care and/or nursing home care that Medicare does not. But that requires the patient to be exhausted [all] their own financial resources.

Research shows that many dementia patients do just that, with enrollment in Medicaid — insurance for the poor — nearly doubling in the eight years after diagnosis.

So what can patients do to protect their finances before being diagnosed with dementia?

Choi suggests that simply being aware of the severity of the problem would be a start, as many seniors and their families are unaware of the possible financial losses associated with dementia. onset.

In practical terms, she added, to protect against significant loss of assets and have more care options, having a long-term care insurance policy would be wise and almost necessary.

Jing Li is an assistant professor of health economics at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy in Seattle.

Absolute magnitude of [dementias] The potential impact on household finances and early start times is quite notable,” said Li, who was not involved in the study.

As for what you can do to protect your finances as you age, she suggests having a sound plan in place in case a person is unable to manage their finances or take care of their health effectively. fruit.

In addition to having long-term care insurance — which may not provide enough coverage for an older person’s long-term care needs — Li said it’s a good idea to create a power of attorney so that loved ones are entrusted with one’s care. Older family members have the tools to do it.

SOURCE: HwaJung Choi, PhD, research associate professor, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, and health policy and management, School of Public Health, and faculty member, Center for Survey Research , Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor; Jing Li, PhD, assistant professor, health economics, University of Washington, Comparative Health Outcomes, Institute of Economics and Policy, School of Pharmacy, Seattle; JAMA Internal Medicine, October 16, 2023

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