Caregivers for Alzheimer's Patients Sacrifice Own Needs, Study Finds

The personal financial support required by a person with Alzheimer's disease often results in their care contributors cutting back on basic necessities such as food, transportation, and medical care, a new report from the Alzheimer's Association finds.

The association estimates that nearly sixteen million family members and friends are providing financial, physical, and emotional support to the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease. According to the report, 2016 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, these contributors of care were 28 percent more likely to eat less or go hungry while caring for someone with Alzheimer's, while 20 percent said they sacrificed their own medical care by cutting back on doctor visits. Overall, nearly half of those who contribute to the care of an Alzheimer's patient cut back on personal expenses so as to afford dementia-related care for their family member or friend, 13 percent sold personal belongings to help pay for care costs related to dementia, and nearly half tapped into their savings or retirement funds. On average, care contributors spent more than $5,000 a year of their own to care for someone with Alzheimer's disease.  

For many care contributors, the financial burden is compounded. For example, more than a third of the care contributors surveyed said they reduced their hours at work or quit their job entirely while caring for someone with Alzheimer's, leading to an average loss of income of around $15,000. In addition, 11 percent said they reduced or eliminated spending for their children’s education to provide support for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

According to the report, about two-thirds of those surveyed incorrectly believe Medicare will help them cover nursing home costs, or are not sure whether those costs will be covered. Currently, only 3 percent of adults in the U.S. carry long-term care insurance that might help cover those costs.

"The devastating emotional and physical effects of caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease has been well studied," said Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer's Association. "However, this new report shows, for the first time, the enormous personal financial sacrifices that millions of care contributors must make every day. These sacrifices jeopardize the financial security of individuals and families, as well as their access to basic needs and health care."