Alzheimer's Disease: Planning for an Unknown Future

There are currently 5.4 million Americans1 who have Alzheimer's disease, and 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 effects2. 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. Most care is custodial, not medical, and belongs 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. Medicaid may help pay medical costs, but you must 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 as well as the fact that Alzheimer's disease requires lifetime care. In 2018, the national average cost of a semiprivate room in a nursing home was $92,710 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 $144 per day. That's $37,440 per year for a home health aide visiting six hours per day, five days a week5.

Home care can be provided 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 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.

It's also important to remember that 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 ahead can help to reduce financial and emotional stress on your family.

Plan Ahead with the FLTCIP

Fortunately for many, the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) offers protection and support when it's needed the most.

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. It 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 are also eligible to apply. Learn more about eligibility

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.

To learn more about the FLTCIP's comprehensive benefits and features, visit the Program Details section of our website.

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 Vulnerable to Alzheimer's," http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/women-with-signs-of-alzheimers-appear-to-deteriorate-faster-studies-find/2015/07/21/f7be9aaa-2fca-11e5-8353-1215475949f4_story.html (accessed July 2019).
2 Alzheimer's Association, "2019 Alzheimer's Disease Facts & Figures, Prevalence," http://www.alz.org/facts (accessed July 2019).
3 Washington Post, "Why Do More Women Get Alzheimer's? Research Points to Genetics, Other Factors," http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/with-women-perhaps-facing-higher-risk-of-alzheimers-female-scientists-unite/2014/09/03/2aa0506c-28ab-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html (accessed July 2019).
4 Mayo Clinic, "Alzheimer's Stages: How the Disease Progresses," http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers-stages/art-20048448 (accessed July 2019).
5 John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company, "John Hancock 2018 Cost of Care Survey," conducted by Long Term Care Group, Inc., December 2019.
6 Alzheimer's Association, "Caregiver Stress," http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-caregiver-stress-burnout.asp (accessed July 2019).
7 National Institutes of Health, "Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving," http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791523 (accessed July 2019).
8 The Alzheimer's Reading Room, "The Financial Impact of Alzheimer's on Family Caregivers," http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2014/11/the-financial-impact-of-alzheimers-on.html (accessed July 2019).

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