Managing finances after an Alzheimer's diagnosis

Dorothy and John Eckert
Alzheimer's patient Dorothy Eckert and her husband John Eckert held hands at their home in Norristown, Pa., in 2007.
Matt Rourke/AP

Finances may not be the first concern when one hears a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. But for the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's and their families, money often becomes a big issue.

One of the first signs of Alzheimer's is a person's inability to properly handle finances, according to the National Institutes of Health:

You might notice that a family member or friend is having difficulty counting change, paying for a store purchase, calculating a tip, balancing a checkbook, or understanding a bank statement. You might find unpaid and even unopened bills lying around the person's home. You might notice lots of new purchases on a credit card bill or strange new merchandise.

The cost of paying someone else to care for a family member with Alzheimer's adds up, and caring for a loved one at home can mean lost hours of paid work or having to quit one's job. More than 15 million Americans provided an estimated 17.4 billion hours of unpaid care to family members or friends with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia in 2011.

From Kiplinger:

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Besides addressing the immediate financial issues, James Sullivan, a certified public accountant for Core Capital Solutions in Naperville, Ill., assists families in understanding the long-term costs involved with the "progression of care." This includes the initial care at home, adult daycare and eventual nursing-home services. "You don't want to get into the eighth year and realize you're out of money," he says. He helps families devise a care budget that could last for years.

Sullivan reviews cash-raising options such as moving to a smaller house or taking out a reverse mortgage. He will also assess the available sources of caregiving: "Are there adult kids who can help? Is the spouse even in a position to provide care — can she pick you up?"

Eleanor Laise, associate editor of Kiplinger Retirement Report, will join The Daily Circuit Thursday, March 7, to talk about how to prepare financially for Alzheimer's or dementia. Eric Tangalos, co-director of the Information Transfer Core for Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, will also join the discussion.


2012 Alzheimer's disease facts and figures (The Alzheimer's Association)

Money woes can be early clue to Alzheimer's (New York Times)

The financial toll of Alzheimer's (Kiplinger)

Alzheimer's disease and managing finances (NIH)