INDIANAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dealing with dementia can create confusion and frustration not only for the person with the disease, but also for his or her family members, including caregivers. Approximately 43.5 million adults care for someone 50 years old or older.1 More than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women.2 Although it can be challenging for everyone involved, there are tips to make it just a little bit easier, according to Dr. Richard Frank, medical director for Medicare products with WellPoint.
Dementia is loss of memory and a variety of other symptoms that interfere with daily life. It is a disease caused by physical changes in the brain that result in cell death. Alzheimer’s, a fatal brain disease, is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases.3 It is estimated that one of every three seniors dies with some form of dementia.4 Much of the care for someone with dementia falls upon their families, including the person’s spouse and children. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for people with dementia in 2013 valued at more than $220 billion.5
In connection with the inaugural Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, which is being recognized throughout June, WellPoint offers the following tips for those caring for a loved one with dementia.
1. Learn about dementia. By learning about dementia, a caregiver can better understand how the disease is currently impacting a loved one and anticipate changes to come as the disease progresses. The person with dementia may be unable to find words, construct complete sentences, remember names and details, and complete once simple tasks. The Alzheimer’s Association offers educational materials and workshops on the 10 Warnings Signs of Alzheimer’s disease, planning for the future and more. To find a local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, visit alz.org or call 1-800-272-3900.
2. Understand the benefits available in a loved one’s insurance. People over age 65 likely have Medicare. Nearly one of every five Medicare dollars is spent helping people with dementia.6 Medicare generally covers much of the cost of diagnosis, evaluation and some treatment of dementia, including inpatient hospital care and some doctor’s fees. It also may cover home health care, mental health services and hospice, while Part D may cover drugs for treating dementia. Medicare does not cover adult day care, long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living. Some of these services may be covered by Medicaid for those who qualify. Medicare Advantage (MA) plans may include special programs for people with dementia, and may help connect them to available community resources. Additional premiums copays and coinsurance may apply.
3. Coordinate health care decisions as soon as possible. It’s critical to talk to a loved one about their health care wishes in the early-stage of the disease while they are still able to contribute to the planning process. Discussing preferences and establishing plans can alleviate stress for both the person living with dementia and the caregiver. Caregivers should encourage their loved one to consider creating a power of attorney for health care, also known as an “advance directive.” This document allows the person with dementia to appoint someone to make health care decisions on their behalf when he or she can no longer do so and indicates the type of medical treatment they want and don’t want. The person with dementia can appoint a family member or a trusted friend to act as their power of attorney. It’s important to select a back-up person, too. Because of privacy laws, insurers may not even be able to talk to a caregiver about a loved one’s health without proper documentation.
4. Ensure a safe environment. Most people want to be able stay in their home as long as possible, but the environment must be safe for them. Some MA plans have specialized teams that are trained to go to a member’s home and conduct home safety evaluations, including assessing the risk of falls and recommending equipment, such as a cane, that may help reduce the risk for fall. Take advantage of this service if it’s available. Also, research how to make a loved one safe and comfortable while retaining as much independence as possible. The Alzheimer’s Association offers safety guidance and resources on topics such as driving, wandering and natural disasters at alz.org/safetycenter.
5. Make sure your loved one keeps all doctor appointments. While there are not currently treatments that stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, research is advancing quickly, including possible new medications and treatments.
6. The last, and perhaps most important tip for caregivers, is to make sure to take care of their own health, too. According to the Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2013. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and more than one-third report symptoms of depression.7 Seek support from family, friends and other caregivers going through similar experiences. The Alzheimer’s Association offers support groups where caregivers can share tips for caring for a loved one with dementia. These groups offer a safe, confidential, supportive environment and educate and inform participants about dementia and how to develop methods and skills to solve problems.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider for advice about treatments that may affect your health.
WellPoint affiliates are PPO, LPPO, RPPO and HMO plans with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in WellPoint affiliates depends on contract renewal.
About WellPoint, Inc.
WellPoint is one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies. We believe that our health connects us all. So we focus on being a valued health partner and delivering quality products and services that give members access to the care they need. With nearly 67 million people served by our affiliated companies including nearly 37 million enrolled in our family of health plans, we can make a real difference to meet the needs of our diverse customers. We’re an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We serve members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; and as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as the Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in 10 New York City metropolitan and surrounding counties and as the Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), and Wisconsin. In most of these service areas, our plans do business as Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, or Empire Blue Cross (in the New York service areas). We also serve customers in other states through our Amerigroup and CareMore subsidiaries. To find out more about us, go to wellpoint.com.