Alzheimer's Disease: Planning for an Unknown Future

November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, and, given the 5.4 million Americans1 who have the disease, chances are that you know someone who is living with it. The fact is, as the U.S. population ages, many more individuals are likely to be diagnosed. One in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer's disease, and there have been no medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.

Alzheimer's disease has a distinct gender bias: the majority of its victims are women. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease, and, once they have it, are far more vulnerable to its effects1. Female longevity was once thought to be responsible for this disparity, but recent medical research suggests that biological, genetic, and even cultural influences may play significant roles3.

Currently, there is no way to prevent or cure Alzheimer's disease. Individuals typically live eight to 10 years after they are diagnosed4. There are progressive stages of Alzheimer's disease and, as time passes, small losses in memory and judgment advance to profound intellectual and social impairment. In the last stage, physical function is reduced as well, ultimately leading to death.

As this disease runs its course, Alzheimer's patients may require increasing levels of assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Further, Alzheimer's patients are often unaware of their surroundings and potentially dangerous situations. To maintain the safety of these patients, increased supervision is required. The majority of these care services are custodial, not medical, and belong in the category known as long term care.

Long term care provided by a facility can be expensive and is generally not covered by traditional health plans or Medicare. If you have a low income and limited resources, Medicaid may help pay medical costs but you are required to meet your state's poverty criteria.

Paying out-of-pocket is one way to cover long term care expenses. However, you should consider the cost of long term care services before relying on this method. Alzheimer's disease requires lifetime care services. This care can be expensive depending on the type of care you need and location where that care is received. For example, in 2016, the national average cost of a semiprivate room in a nursing home was $91,615 annually5.

Home care is generally more affordable than nursing home care but is still costly. When averaged nationally, the cost of a six-hour visit by a home health aide is $126 per day. That's $32,760 per year for a home health aide visiting five hours per day, five days a week5.

Informal care can be provided at home by a relative or friend, but there may be a significant physical and emotional cost for these informal caregivers. Caring for an individual with Alzheimer's disease is difficult and the demands can be unrelenting. Caregivers commonly suffer from chronic stress6, which can compromise their physical and psychological health7 as well as their most intimate family relationships. Often these caregivers leave the workplace or step out of a chosen career path to meet increasing care needs8. This decision can have profound implications for their personal finances in both the short- and long-term.

The need for long term care can arise from an accident, illness, or injury at any age. Although no one can be certain that he or she will develop Alzheimer's disease, planning now can help to reduce financial and emotional stress on your family. The good news is, the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) offers protection and support when it's needed the most.

The FLTCIP can help

The FLTCIP can help pay for personal care and other related services provided on an extended basis to people who need help with everyday activities or who need supervision due to a severe cognitive impairment. The FLTCIP provides comprehensive coverage, regardless of whether you receive care at home, in an assisted living facility (including specialized care for persons living with Alzheimer's disease), or in a nursing home. Additionally, family members and friends can provide care as informal caregivers.

Many members of the Federal family are eligible to apply for coverage under the FLTCIP, including Federal and U.S. Postal Service employees and annuitants, as well as active and retired members of the uniformed services. Qualified relatives such as spouses, domestic partners, parents and parents-in-law, and adult children are also eligible to apply. More about eligibility

The best time for you or your family members to consider long term care insurance is long before you need it. Because the FLTCIP is medically underwritten, it's important to apply when you are in good health to avoid the risk that a future illness or condition may prevent you from obtaining coverage later. Also, premiums are directly related to age. This means the younger people are when they apply for coverage, the lower their premium.

For personalized assistance, call 1-800-LTC-FEDS (1-800-582-3337) TTY 1-800-843-3557 to speak with a program consultant. Our consultants are available to answer any questions you may have and can walk you step-by-step through the plan design and application process.

More about the FLTCIP

Established by an act of Congress in 2000 and overseen by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the FLTCIP is designed to meet the specific needs of the Federal family. The FLTCIP provides industry-leading benefits and offers flexible options that allow enrollees to tailor coverage to meet their needs.

Certain medical conditions, or combinations of conditions, will prevent some people from being approved for coverage. You need to apply to find out if you qualify for coverage under the FLTCIP.

The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program is sponsored by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, insured by John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company, and administered by Long Term Care Partners, LLC.

1 Washington Post. "Studies Add to Evidence That Women Are More Susceptible to Alzheimer's," (accessed July 2019).
2 Alzheimer's Association. "2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts & Figures, Prevalence," (accessed July 2019).
3 Washington Post. "Why Do More Women Get Alzheimer's? Research Points to Genetics, Other Factors," (accessed July 2019).
4 Mayo Clinic. "Alzheimer's Stages: How the Disease Progresses," (accessed July 2019).
5 John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company. "John Hancock 2016 Cost of Care Survey," conducted by LifePlans, Inc., September 2016.
6 Alzheimer's Association. "Caregiver Stress," (accessed July 2019).
7 National Institutes of Health. "Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving," (accessed July 2019).
8 The Alzheimer's Reading Room. "The Financial Impact of Alzheimer's on Family Caregivers," (accessed July 2019).