A process of balancing resources with anticipated expenses in looking at potential future needs. Although Parkinson’s disease is a medical condition, it affects every aspect of a person’s life. However modest a family’s resources, it is essential to plan, as early as possible, for future needs. Expenses, direct and indirect, can be overwhelming. anti-parkinson’s medications can cost $500 a month or more. Residence in a retirement community or an assisted living facility can cost $3,000 a month or more; long-term care facilities are even more costly. Even when a family member serves as full-time caregiver so the person with Parkinson’s remains in the home, there are numerous costs associated with transportation to doctor appointments, special items such as protective undergarments and nutritional supplements, adaptive equipment and assist devices, and perhaps loss of income if the caregiver has given up or cannot take a paying job.
Each family’s circumstances and needs are unique. Yet nearly every family needs to make adjustments to accommodate both short-term and long-term expenses. Factors to consider include:
• What is the age of the person with Parkinson’s, and to what extent is he or she responsible for the family’s financial status? A person who is still working is likely making significant contributions to the family’s income. In early-onset Parkinson’s, the person may still be in a career-building phase.
• How significantly do the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease affect the person’s abilities? If still employed, can he or she continue to work? If not, how close is he or she to retirement? What, if any, consequences are attached to early retirement, such as reduced payments or loss of insurance?
• Are there dependent children living at home? What are their needs? How will those needs be met if the person with Parkinson’s is the family’s primary wage earner? If a spouse works outside the home, who provides care for the person with Parkinson’s?
• What benefits are available to help pay for medical expenses? The care that the person with
Parkinson’s requires becomes more extensive and expensive as the disease progresses. medical insurance or medicare, for those who have either, covers most of the initial expense of evaluation and diagnostic testing as well as the costs of much of the ongoing care. Some people also qualify for other medical benefits such as those of the Veterans Administration (VA) (veteran’s benefits for those who were honorably discharged from military service). Many benefit plans do not pay for prescription drugs or pay nominal amounts for them. This means that many people must pay for anti-parkinson’s medications, which can be quite expensive.
• What physical challenges exist, such as stairs, for the person with Parkinson’s in the current place of residence? How feasible is it to make any necessary modifications as the disease progresses?
• How will the family accommodate the person’s need for extensive assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs), should that need arise? Does the family have the resources to pay for in-home care, assisted living, or long-term care?
• How can the family preserve resources and still meet the needs of the person with Parkinson’s? How will the family accommodate medicaid spend-down requirements, if that becomes necessary?
A qualified financial consultant can help families identify their resources as well as potential expenses, which often include aspects that families do not consider such as estate planning, tax issues, wills, and funeral arrangements. It is important to choose a consultant who has no vested interest in the decisions the family makes and can present an objective assessment of the family’s situation and workable solutions for potential problems. Support groups, senior centers, and social service organizations (many of which are not-for-profit organizations and charge minimal fees for their services) are good resources.