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Alzheimer's Care: Options and Choices

by Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick

For loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, there are more care options to be considered than just Home Care assistance. Assisted Living facilities have become an attractive alternative in recent years, as some are specially equipped and staffed to attend to Alzheimer's patients.

Assisted Living for Alzheimer's Patients
The assisted living facilities that provide Alzheimer's Care are usually referred to as Special Care Units (SCUs). Assisted living facilities are often considered the best choice for those who are in the early to moderate stages of Alzheimer's. SCUs are designed to suit the needs of Alzheimer's patients, particularly by employing staff that is expressly trained to work with people with dementia.

The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation recommends that those researching senior housing options for patient's in need of Alzheimer's Care look for specific characteristics, including a safe, supervised, and comfortable environment that can handle wandering patients; a structured routine; and activities that echo the habits the individual residents have established over a lifetime.

The Fisher Center also advises that caregivers find out how much time Alzheimer's care staffers take to get to know an individual so that their specific needs can be catered to. Likewise, caregivers should confirm that daily activities - such as making the bed or even baking cookies - are encouraged and practiced in order to give patients an opportunity to succeed at familiar tasks.

It's important - if long-term care is desired - to know what level of care an SCU will provide. Some Alzheimer's care units within assisted living facilities only accept patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's, others care for people until they require skilled care in a nursing home, and some SCUs provide hospice services.

What Are the Costs?
As with any senior housing option, when determining the feasibility of Alzheimer's care within an Assisted Living community, people should ask about monthly fees, what they include, and where additional costs may be incurred. For example, some facilities will charge an extra fee for incontinence care.

While assisted living costs less than nursing Home Care, costs for Alzheimer's care can range from $3,000 to upwards of $5,000 per month, depending on the facility's location, services, care options, and licensing. Some facilities do accept state funding, such as Medicaid, but assisted living is ordinarily paid for privately.

Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reports that patients or their families typically foot the bill for assisted living. Health and long-term care insurance policies may cover some costs but Medicare does not cover assisted living at all.

Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' benefits can usually help defray some costs of nursing home care, under certain conditions. Long-term-care insurance and, in some instances, managed care plans, will cover nursing home costs.

The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging reports that nearly 40 percent of long-term care spending - whether for assisted living or nursing home care - comes from private pay. The association also states that Medicaid covers the care of over half of all nursing home residents.

If private pay is being used to cover the costs of long-term health care, it is recommended that a discussion be had with the care facility as to what will happen when the patient or family runs out of money. Determine ahead of time what kind of plans or assistance the facility will accept.

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Alzheimer's care is so important because the health and welfare of the patient is at risk. Tragedies can happen if you don't choose a facility that has the resources to handle dementia.
by C Youderian submitted on Feb 6, 2010



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