When Mike was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we were far from rich. Perhaps like you we had set aside a small nest egg and were living on a modest budget. We had good health care insurance along with Mike’s Medicare, but we did not have long-term health care insurance. The truth is, aside from the equity in our home, we would have no way of paying for Mike to spend years in an Alzheimer’s care facility.
How, then, did Mike and I manage to pay for nearly 10 years of living together at home? Well, the financial plan we developed was not particularly complicated, and it is all outlined for you in a few pages in Chapter 21 of the Mike&Me book. But let me summarize the overarching spirit of our plan right here.
As Mike and I began pondering what our future might be with Alzheimer’s, his first thought was about me. He was concerned that we would end up depleting our savings as his condition worsened, and he worried where that would leave me in years to come. I loved him for that, but I was more concerned with how the two of us could afford to continue to live our lives together now, rather than worrying about the distant future.
There were a lot of ifs and unknowns, but we did some basic financial planning homework, estimated the costs of the various approaches to managing Alzheimer’s, and here’s what we decided:
Instead of living in fear of Alzheimer’s, we decided instead to focus on our marriage, to savor each day, and to keep looking forward to every tomorrow. We would live conservatively, of course, watching our dollars carefully. We also had a backup plan: If it ever turned out that Mike had to be in a care facility and we needed extra dollars, then we would sell our home and give up our other resources too. And I was okay with that because things are just things.
While I can’t estimate what Alzheimer’s will cost you today (it all depends on your individual circumstances), I urge you to go to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Financial Planning site and heed their good advice: “Do not let the stress or fear of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis make you push aside financial planning. The truth is, the best way to reduce stress and fear is by planning ahead.”
Speaking from my own experience, I can assure you that if you and your loved one are careful and thoughtful, there are definite ways for you to make a huge difference in the ultimate cost. Again, I have listed a number of these in Chapter 21 of Mike&Me. But one of the biggest and most obvious ways is to simply care for your loved one in your own home as long as possible. By planning ahead and living at home as long as possible, you can manage Alzheimer’s, rather than letting Alzheimer’s manage you.