19Sep, 2016

High cost of caring for family members with Alzheimer’s

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | September 19th, 2016

by Laura du Preez. [Reproduced with acknowledgement to Personal Finance, 17 September 2016]

Increasing longevity means people are enjoying longer lives, but it has also led to an alarming increase in the prevalence of illnesses, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, that require long-term care. More and more families are having to pay for facilities such as frail care or hired help at home, or are losing the income of a family member who has to say home to care for an elderly relative.

According to DementiaSA’s website, dementia affects one in 20 people over the age of 65 and one in five people over the age of 80. Alzheimer’s SA regional director Jill Robson estimates some 850 000 South Africans have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

If a member of your family has one of these illnesses and is unable to care for themselves, you will need to provide full-time care over what may be a long period.

Frail care costs range from R2 000 to R45 000 a month, depending on whether or not they are subsidised. Some facilities charge for additional carers on top of frail care fees for residents with a condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s that requires 24-hour one-on-one care.

Hiring a carer to assist at home is not cheap either. A Cape Town agency that provides trained carers, Cape Care Agency, says you will need to hire four carers to provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the cost will be between R25 000 and R30 000 a month.

Adult nappies and medication are additional expenses. Medication for Alzheimer’s or dementia can easily cost R1 000 a month. Since these illnesses are not covered by the prescribed minimum benefits (PMBs), medical schemes typically do not cover this cost. Other illnesses requiring long-term care, such as Parkinson’s disease, are covered by the PMBs.

Most medical schemes do not pay the costs of frail care when you need this care because of frailty that comes with old age or mental incapacity. They typically pay for frail-care services only when you are recovering from an operation or illness or when you need palliative (pain relief and comfort) care when your illness is terminal.

September is Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Month, and Wednesday is World Alzheimer’s Day.