How to Use Disability Benefits to Pay for Memory Care

When someone receives a diagnosis of dementia, it’s a stressful time for both the patient and their loved ones. While you’ll likely have many questions about the condition, one of the biggest concerns caregivers have is how the necessary care will be paid for. Long term medical care can get expensive fast and put a strain on the finances of loved ones, but for patients that qualify, disability insurance is available to help offset the cost of care.

Types of Dementia

Dementia is a general term used to describe symptoms that affect memory, cognitive abilities, and communication. There are many different diseases that can lead to dementia and while it usually affects older adults, it can affect people at any point in their lives. Although there is no cure for dementia, there are many innovative treatments being developed that can improve brain function and the quality of life for many patients.

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. The disease affects memory, language, and cognitive ability. It is progressive, meaning that it worsens over time. The risk of dementia increases with age, but younger people can still develop it at any point.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies/Parkinson’s Disease

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) often occurs with Parkinson’s Disease. Protein formations located in the brain called Lewy bodies can affect patients in a variety of ways and cause a range of symptoms depending on where in the brain they are located.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s and is caused by impaired blood flow to the brain. This often occurs because of a stroke, and symptoms range from cognitive deficits and mood disturbances to physical problems such as chronic weakness. Patients with vascular dementia also often develop vascular lesions in the brain.

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia is a term used to describe multiple types of dementia that a patient develops at the same time. The most common type of mixed dementia is a combination of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The different symptoms of mixed dementia will vary but often include confusion, memory trouble, difficulty concentrating. Speech problems, behavioral trouble, and emotional problems are also common.

Accessing Disability Benefits

Is Alzheimer’s Considered a Disability?

In some cases, Alzheimer’s is considered a disability, especially in the case of early onset Alzheimer’s. If the symptoms of Alzheimer’s will prevent the person from working for at least a year, then they might qualify for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Qualifying for SSDI

In order to qualify for SSDI, patients must meet the requirements of a disability listing. For patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, neurocognitive disorders are the most common disability listing that they qualify for.

Patients will need to present medical evidence that they have declined in:

  • Memory and learning
  • Judgment and planning skills
  • Language ability
  • Social skills

The decline in these areas must be significant enough to cause the patient severe limitations in how they function.

The SSA will require documentation showing that the patient meets these qualifications. These documents can be obtained from a primary care physician or other specialists that the patient sees. They also take into consideration work evaluations and any attempts the patient has made to continue working.

Compassionate Care Benefits

In many situations, it can take disabled patients a long time to qualify for disability benefits, sometimes years. Compassionate Care allows patients with certain severe medical conditions to be approved quickly – sometimes in only a matter of weeks.

When it comes to dementia, patients who have been diagnosed with mixed dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies may be eligible for quick SSDI approval based on Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances initiative.

Types of Care for Early Onset Alzheimer’s



Patients with early onset Alzheimer’s will require varying degrees of care depending on how advanced their disease is. Different types of care may suit different patients and families better than others. The type of care a patient needs will also likely change over the course of the disease.

Home Aides

What Is It?

Home aides visit a patient’s home and assist with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and preparing food. Those with more progressed forms of memory impairment may prefer a home health aide, who typically has more medical training and can perform healthcare-related tasks in addition to the services provided by home aides.

Who Is It Best For?

Home aides are excellent for patients who are still able to live in their own home but need help completing basic tasks on a daily basis. Many patients might live with a family member or caregiver who still has their own job and isn’t available to attend to all of a patient’s needs on a daily basis.

Pros

  • The patient is still able to live at home
  • They receive professional care from trained staff
  • Care can be flexible depending on the needs of the patient and other caregivers

Cons

  • Care is limited – most home aides are only available for a certain amount of time on a set schedule each day.
  • Lack of emergency resources if the patient has a serious medical event
  • The patient might feel isolated if housebound at all times

Adult Day Care

What Is It?

Adult day care is a place where caregivers can leave their loved ones who need supervision during the day while they work or take care of other obligations. Care is typically limited to daytime hours; overnight or long-term care is not available with adult day care.

Who Is It Best For?

This is an excellent option for those with Alzheimer’s who live with a caregiver or family member who still works full or part-time and cannot be with their loved one all day. Most people do best in adult day care when they are still comfortable traveling outside of their home and socializing with others.

Pros

  • Allows caregivers to continue working while giving their loved ones care
  • Provides valuable social interaction
  • Patients are with trained staff for the course of the day

Cons

  • Caregivers often need to provide transportation to and from the daycare facility
  • Patients with advanced dementia may have difficulty with a changing environment

Respite Care

What Is It?

Respite care allows caregivers to take a break from their caregiving duties while the person with dementia still receives the care they need. Respite care can be provided at home by a professional, a volunteer, or a family member or it can be provided at a facility outside the home. Many caregivers use respite care while traveling, or when they simply are feeling overwhelmed and need assistance with their caregiving duties.

Who’s Is It Best For?

Respite care is a perfect option for patients who have caregivers that need a break from their duties. Caregivers need to relax, engage in other activities and take time for themselves so that they can continue to care for the patient without getting burnt out.

Pros

  • Allows caregivers to take much needed time for themselves
  • Patients can have valuable social interactions with other people
  • Patients are safe with a skilled caregiver
  • Flexible options so patients can receive care in their home or at another facility

Cons

  • May be difficult to coordinate respite care on short notice
  • Caregivers may need to provide transportation to and from a facility

Memory Care

What Is It?

Residential memory care is for patients who can not live at home and need around the clock care. There, patients will be monitored by trained medical staff and receive individualized care. Services provided in residential memory care facilities include assistance with activities of daily living, meal service, and medical care.

Who Is It Best For?

Residential memory care is best for dementia patients in the later stages of the disease who need around the clock care and are no longer able to live in their own homes. These facilities provide the highest level of care of any memory care option.

Pros

  • Patients receive professional care from a staff that understands dementia
  • Patients have their meals prepared for them
  • Facilities often schedule activities and outing for patients who are able to attend
  • Residential facilities provide around-the-clock care

Cons

  • Can be costly
  • Caregivers are not as involved in their loved ones care
  • Residents have less freedom than living at home or other senior care facilities, so it should only be used by those who can no longer function outside of a memory care facility

How to Pay for Memory Care

Disability Benefits

Disability benefits can be used to pay for the memory care your loved one needs. Whether your loved one will be staying at home or entering a care facility, this can help ease the financial burden caregivers often experience face with long-term medical care. Those who wish to receive disability benefits must apply for SSDI through the SSA.

Recipients may use SSDI benefits towards paying for any type of memory care that they please. Unfortunately, SSDI likely won’t be enough to cover the full cost of memory care that your loved one will need.

Other Ways to Pay

In addition to SSDI, there are several other forms of financial assistance available for patients who need assistance paying for memory care.

  • Long Term Care Insurance: Long term care insurance is insurance specifically used to pay for long term care such as a nursing home or medical care facility. What is covered varies between different policies, so be sure to check the details of your own to see which memory care services are covered.
  • Reverse Mortgages: Reverse mortgages allow homeowners to receive regular payments in exchange for relinquishing the equity of their home. The homeowner will ultimately have to sell their home once the last resident moves out in order to repay the loan.
  • Annuities: Annuities are long-term plans funded with an initial lump sum, which is then paid back to the account holder over time. They are a great way to ensure you have money coming in for years to come and are be a useful method for paying for memory care and other types of senior care.
  • Non-Profit Assistance: There are nonprofit organizations throughout the country dedicated to helping dementia patients. Some organizations may provide financial assistance themselves while others will help families obtain the help they need.
  • VA Assistance:If the patient is a veteran or the spouse of a veteran, they may qualify for financial assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Not all veterans qualify for all types of assistance, so be sure to get in touch with your local benefits office to see if your loved one is eligible.

Since every patient’s situation is unique, it can be helpful to complete surveys such as this to narrow down the types of assistance your loved one may qualify for. For more information on qualifying for SSDI, visit the Social Security Administration website.