Volume 7 Issue 1

Winter 2017

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Karla B. Levinson, Esq.
Tanya S. Sellers, Esq.

Contact Us: 

Address:
1326 King Street

Wilmington, DE 19801

Phone:
(302) 656-3393

Fax:
(302) 656-1993

Website:
www.levinsonfirm.com

welcome

Please join us in welcoming Candy McDermott, the newest member of our team! Say hello to Candy at the front desk next time you stop in to the office. 

The Costs of Dementia For Caregivers

A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association states that one in nine Americans age 65 or older currently have Alzheimer’s. With the baby boomer generation aging and people living longer, that number may nearly triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s, of course, is just one cause of dementia – mini-strokes (TIAs) are also to blame – so the number of those with dementia may actually be higher.

Caring for someone with dementia is more expensive – and care is often needed longer – than for someone who does not have dementia. Because the cost of care in a facility is out of reach for many families, caregivers are often family members who risk their own financial security and health to care for a loved one. In this article, we will explore these issues and steps families can take to alleviate some of these burdens.

Financial Costs for the Family 

Many times, families are not prepared to pay facility long-term care costs, especially if they go on for years. As a result, family members are often required to provide the care for as long as possible. Women routinely serve as caregivers for spouses, parents, in-laws and friends. While some men do serve as caregivers, women spend approximately 50% more time caregiving than men.

The financial impact on women caregivers is substantial. In a Genworth study, Beyond Dollars 2015, more than 60% of the women surveyed reported they pay for care with their own savings and retirement funds. These expenses include household expenses, personal items, transportation services, informal caregivers and long-term care facilities. Almost half report having to reduce their own quality of living in order to pay for the care.

In addition, absences, reduced hours and chronic tardiness can mean a significant reduction in a caregiver’s pay. 77% of those surveyed missed time from work in order to provide care for a loved one, with an average of seven hours missed per week. About one-third of caregivers provide 30 or more hours of care per week, and half of those estimate they lost around one-third of their income. More than half had to work fewer hours, felt their career was negatively affected and had to leave their job as the result of a long-term care situation.

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The Costs of Dementia For Caregivers - continued

Caregivers who lose income also lose retirement benefits and social security benefits. They may be sacrificing their children’s college funds and their own retirement. Other family members who contribute to the costs of care may also see their standard of living and savings reduced.

Emotional and Physical Costs to Caregivers 

In addition to the financial costs, caregivers report increased stress, anxiety and depression. The Genworth study found that while a high percentage of caregivers have some positive feelings about providing care for their loved one, almost half also experienced depression, mood swings and resentment, and admitted the event negatively affected their personal health and well-being. About a third reported an extremely high level of stress and said their relationships with their family and spouse were affected. More than half did not feel qualified to provide physical care and worried about the lack of time for themselves and their families.

Providing care to someone with dementia increases the levels of distress and depression higher than caring for someone without dementia. People with dementia may wander, become aggressive and often no longer recognize family members, even those caring for them. Caregivers can become exhausted physically and emotionally, and the patient may simply become too much for them to handle, especially when the caregiver is an older person providing care for his/her ill spouse. This can lead to feelings of failure and guilt. In addition, these caregivers often have high blood pressure, an increased risk of developing hypertension, spend less time on preventative care and have a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.

What can be done? 

Planning is important. Challenges that caregivers face include finding relief from the emotional stress associated with providing care for a loved one, planning to cover the responsibilities that could jeopardize the caregiver’s job or career, and easing financial pressures that strain a family’s budget. Having options – additional caregivers, alternate sources of funds, respite care for the caregiver – can help relieve many of these stresses. In addition, there are a number of legal options to help families protect hard-earned assets from the rising costs of long-term care, and to access funds to help pay for that care.

The best way to have those options when they are needed is to plan ahead, but most people don’t. According to the Genworth survey, the top reasons people fail to plan are they didn’t want to admit care was needed; the timing of the long-term care need was unforeseen or unexpected; they didn’t want to talk about it; they thought they had more time; and they hoped the issue would resolve itself.

Waiting too late to plan for the need for long-term care, especially for dementia, can throw a family into confusion about what Mom or Dad would want, what options are available, what resources can help pay for care and who is best-suited to help provide hands-on care, if needed. Having the courage to discuss the possibility of incapacity and/or dementia before it happens can go a long way toward being prepared should that time come.

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The Costs of Dementia For Caregivers - continued

Watch for early signs of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) has prepared a list of signs and symptoms that can help individuals and family members recognize the beginnings of dementia. Early diagnosis provides the best opportunities for treatment, support and planning for the future. Some medications can slow the progress of the disease, and new discoveries are being made every year.

Take good care of the caregiver. Caregivers need support and time off to take care of themselves. Arrange for relief from outside caregivers or other family members. All will benefit from joining a caregiver support group to share questions and frustrations, and learn how other caregivers are coping. Caregivers need to determine what they need to maintain their stamina, energy and positive outlook. That may include regular exercise (a yoga class, golf, walk or run), an outing with friends, or time to read or simply watch TV.

If the main caregiver currently works outside the home, they can inquire about resources that might be available. Depending on how long they expect to be caring for the person, they may be able to work on a flex time schedule or from home. Consider whether other family members can provide compensation to the one who will be the main caregiver.

Seek assistance. Find out what resources might be available. A local Elder Law attorney can prepare necessary legal documents, help maximize income, retirement savings and long-time care insurance, and apply for VA or Medicaid benefits. He or she will also be familiar with various living communities in the area and in-home care agencies.

Conclusion 

Caring for a loved one with dementia is more demanding and more expensive for a longer time than caring for a loved one without dementia. It requires the entire family to come together to discuss and explore all options so that the burden of providing care is shared by all.

We help families who may need long-term care by creating an asset protection plan that will provide peace of mind to all. If you would like to talk through your own situation, please give us a call at (302)656-3393 to discuss your options.

Adapted from ElderCounsel’s Elder Counselor newsletter article, “The Costs of Dementia: For the Patient and the Family”, Volume 8, Issue 2.

This newsletter is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice, consult a licensed attorney. The examples used are simplified for ease of understanding and illustration of general concepts. 

Volume 6 Issue 4

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This newsletter is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice, consult a licensed attorney. The examples used are simplified for ease of understanding and illustration of general concepts.

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The Highest Compliment Is Your Trust!

We would like to thank YOU for continuing to refer our firm to others. It is because of you that we can assist so many with their elder law needs. 

A warm thank you to: 

Stacey Battles – Millcroft

Frank DeMarinis – Brookdale White Chapel

Evergreen Adult Day Program

Kelley Huff, Esq. – Murphy & Landon

Kathleen Murphy, Esq. – Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney, PC

Vince Thomas, Esq. – Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP

John Tracey, Esq. – Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP

Chuck Vincelette – Sparano, Vincelette & Joiner, CPA’s