Maine Center for Elder Law Blog

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Everything Gets Complicated When a Person has Dementia

An Annals of Internal Medicine paper reports that the money needed to treat dementia in a patient’s final five years is greater than for heart disease and cancer. Take a look at this New York Times article by Gina Kolata.
Three diseases, leading killers of Americans, often involve long periods of decline before death. Two of them — heart disease and cancer — usually require expensive drugs, surgeries and hospitalizations. The third, dementia, has no effective treatments to slow its course.

So when a group of researchers asked which of these diseases involved the greatest health care costs in the last five years of life, the answer they found might seem surprising. The most expensive, by far, was dementia.

The study looked at patients on Medicare. The average total cost of care for a person with dementia over those five years was $287,038. For a patient who died of heart disease it was $175,136. For a cancer patient it was $173,383. Medicare paid almost the same amount for patients with each of those diseases — close to $100,000 — but dementia patients had many more expenses that were not covered.

On average, the out-of-pocket cost for a patient with dementia was $61,522 — more than 80 percent higher than the cost for someone with heart disease or cancer. The reason is that dementia patients need caregivers to watch them, help with basic activities like eating, dressing and bathing, and provide constant supervision to make sure they do not wander off or harm themselves. None of those costs were covered by Medicare.

"Everything gets complicated when a person has dementia," noted Dr. Christine K. Cassel, a geriatrician and chief executive of the National Quality Forum.

Maine Center for Elder Law attorneys have helped many seniors and their families with estate planning designed to fit each unique situation. We never know what life will bring our way, but we do know we can plan in advance--for everyone's sake.

Read more of the NYT article here.

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