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A recent New York Times article discussed a study in which a group of researchers examined the financial burden of three diseases that are usually characterized by long periods of decline: cancer, heart disease and dementia. The research sought to discover which of these diseases carries with it the greatest health care costs in the last five years of life. Dementia, with an average total cost of $287,038 over five years, far exceeds the cost of care for the other two diseases.

Not only does dementia care carry a higher average total cost, but dementia patients are faced with higher out-of-pocket costs over 80% higher than the other diseases. The reason for the higher out-of-pockets costs is that dementia patients tend to have more expenses that are not covered by Medicare, such as assistance with activities of daily living like bathing and dressing. Dementia patients also more frequently require full-time care, whether in a nursing home or at home.

A family in the article described their experience of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on home care for a family member with dementia, before discovering that Medicaid is available to assist with the cost of care. This is a common experience that can be avoided with proper planning. By planning in advance, families are better informed about their options and can diminish their out-of-pocket costs. Advance planning also ensures that necessary documents, such as Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies, are in place before an individual loses his or her capacity. It is never too early, or too late, to contact an Elder Law attorney to learn more about how to best plan for your future or current situation.

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