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Memory Care is Super Expensive and You Have No Idea

"My parents are going to a home!" 

I hear people say that all of the time. They listen to my caregiving stories, and after they either laugh or express deep empathy for my plight, they utter that line in a throwaway fashion. And I always say - ha, you need to know how much it costs!

Independent living typically comes in around $2000 a month. Assisted living generally starts at around $3000 a month. This is based on your state, and those prices seem manageable. Things get interesting (and super expensive) when discussing memory care.

Memory care facilities provide a critical service for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's, offering specialized care that goes beyond what traditional assisted living communities can provide. These facilities are designed to create a safe, structured environment that minimizes stress and confusion for residents. However, memory care costs are often significantly higher than many families anticipate. Understanding these costs is vital for planning and ensuring loved ones receive the care they need without financial strain. But let's be honest - there will be financial strain unless you're wealthy. This article sheds light on the actual costs of memory care, the factors influencing these costs, and the importance of early financial planning.

Understanding Memory Care Costs

Memory care facilities offer services tailored to meet the needs of individuals with memory impairments, including 24-hour supervised care, medical monitoring, and assistance with daily activities. Specialized programs, such as cognitive therapies and memory-enhancing activities, are also a staple, contributing to the overall well-being of residents. However, this specialized care comes at a cost. Memory care can cost 20-30% more than traditional assisted living. In the United States, the monthly expense for memory care ranges widely. Still, it can average between $5,000 and $7,000, with some facilities charging even more depending on the level of care and services provided. I have a neighbor who was paying $10,000 a month for his wife, who has Alzheimer's. She lost the use of her legs, and they kicked her out, and now he's paying $355 a day at a place not far from where we live. $355 a day!

Factors Influencing Memory Care Costs

Several factors contribute to the varying costs of memory care, including:

  • Location: A facility's geographic location plays a significant role in determining costs. Urban areas with a higher cost of living typically see higher rates for memory care than rural locations. I live in St. Louis, MO, and the typical memory care price starts at 4K, but after add-ons and fees, it's easily closer to 6K a month! Yeah, do you have an extra 6K a month lying around?

  • Facility Type: The cost can also vary depending on whether the facility is part of a larger retirement community, a standalone memory care center, or a specialized unit within a nursing home. Many places have independent, assisted, and memory care all in one place so your loved one can stay within that community. Some also include skilled nursing care, which is the most expensive, usually clocking in around 10-12K a month.

  • Level of Care Needed: The extent of an individual's needs significantly impacts costs. Those requiring more intensive care or supervision will incur higher charges.

  • Amenities: Additional services and amenities, such as private rooms, enhanced security features, and specialized activities, can add to the cost. I have even seen places charge per amount of daily pills the patient will receive. 

The disparity in costs across different states and even within the same city can be substantial, making it crucial for families to research and compare options carefully. And these are 2024 prices - imagine the prices as the disease increases by the expected 50% in four years!

The Price of Neglecting Early Planning

Families often underestimate the cost of memory care, leading to financial and emotional stress when the need for such care arises unexpectedly. A survey by Genworth Financial indicates that over half of American families find themselves unprepared for long-term care costs, with many needing a strategy for covering these expenses. The lack of early planning can limit options and lead to choices that may not be in the best interest of the loved one needing care.

Proactive financial planning, including exploring insurance options, savings plans, and government assistance programs, can alleviate the burden when the time for memory care arrives. It's not just about ensuring financial readiness; it's about providing peace of mind and securing the best possible care for loved ones when needed.

Most people won't have the money to pay for these services, but if you do, you should start investigating prices now and create a strategy. And there's the labyrinth that is Medicaid. Most people are too rich to qualify for Medicaid despite falling short of 6-10K monthly for private pay memory care. And this, this is how most of you will become what I have become—a full-time caregiver. Figure out your options and make a plan now! My mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis blindsided me. People are outliving their brains. And healthcare and the government have not caught up! Get ahead of the game for your family!


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