Unexpected Dementia Expenses: 3 Overlooked Financial Considerations

Article Summary

This article discusses the financial considerations that come with a dementia diagnosis, such as the need for an elder law attorney, home modifications, and home care.

Key takeaways:

  1. An elder law attorney can help with financial aid programs, Medicaid qualification, and creating a personal care agreement.
  2. Home modifications can help keep a person with dementia in their home for as long as possible.
  3. Medicare and Medicaid may cover some of the costs of


When your parent is diagnosed with dementia, you may approach the situation the way that you’d handle any other medical diagnosis: Is the specialist that they need to see in-network? Is their new prescription covered by insurance?

While your parent’s health is stable, plan for the future instead of focusing on the present. Over time, dementia will impact their life – and yours – in ways that you may not have considered. Eldercare professionals can help you address financial concerns, living arrangements and more.

There may be up-front costs, but the plans that you set into place are an investment for your parent’s safety and well-being, as well as your peace of mind.

After a dementia diagnosis, consider the following services:

Elder law attorney

An elder law attorney can help your parent designate you as power of attorney, which allows you to act on their behalf when making healthcare, legal and/or financial decisions. Without it, you won’t have a say in your parent’s care.

An elder law attorney may also help you and your parent:

  • Determine if your parent qualifies for any state financial aid programs
  • Discuss your parent’s finances to see if they may qualify for Medicaid
  • Create a personal care agreement, to compensate you for caregiving services
  • Create an advance directive – a legal form that lets your parent say whether they want to be resuscitated, use a feeding tube, etc.

“People think about a lawyer and [say], ‘We don’t have the money for that,’ but... the big goal is to save money in the long run,” says aging life care manager and licensed occupational Melissa Swiontek, OTL, ALCM, founder of the Oregon-based Passionate Healthcare Advocacy & Wellness.

Home modifications

If your parent wants to stay home indefinitely, you may need to modify their living space. An occupational therapist or aging lifecare professional can assess the home. They may make recommendations such as:

  • Replacing the front steps with a ramp
  • Creating a bedroom on the main floor of the home
  • Modifying bathrooms with grab bars or wheelchair-accessible fixtures

“One of the best cost-effective things you can do is keep people in their homes as long as it’s safely possible,” Swiontek says. “When you start talking about home modifications, sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, that’s going to be like $9,000 – that’s too much. [But] if a fall happens and you’re in the hospital with a hip fracture and you can’t come home, that’s $8,000 a month [for] assisted living.”

If your parent needs a hospital bed, walker or wheelchair, Medicare covers 80 percent of costs; private insurance may cover the rest. Medicaid covers the cost of toilet risers, two grab bars and a toilet safety frame.

Home care

You may want someone with your parent for part of the day, to help them with activities of daily living. You’ll pay out-of-pocket for caregiver costs unless your parent qualifies for Medicaid or your parent has long-term-care insurance. Many agencies won’t send caregivers for less than three hours at a time, which can get costly.

Medicare only covers expenses in a skilled nursing facility or afterward, while a skilled caregiver – a nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist – visits the home.

“That’s just for a brief time period,” Swiontek says, “while you’re making improvements in your status. Once you plateau out, it’s over.”

Consider contacting organizations like these, which may have assistance programs in your area:

  • Your county or state Aging and Disability Office
  • Your local Veterans Affairs facility, if your parent is a veteran
  • The local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
  • The local chapter of a nonprofit like the American Cancer Society or American Heart Association, if your parent has dementia plus another health diagnosis

Author Bio

Lisa Fields is a passionate healthcare writer and advocate for better senior care in America. This article has been reviewed by TJ Falohun, co-founder and CEO of Olera. He is a trained biomedical engineer and writes about the cost of healthcare in America for seniors.

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