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Leaving the U.S. for Alzheimer's Care

Jennifer Wegerer
By Jennifer WegererJanuary 16, 2014

Rising health care costs in the United States have led seniors affected by Alzheimer’s to travel to other countries for affordable, resort-style treatment. But is that treatment better than what they’d receive at home?

In the United States, the financial costs of Alzheimer’s are staggering. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, out-of-pocket costs for Alzheimer’s care total $34 billion. When you add Medicare, Medicaid and other sources, the total cost to the nation comes to around $203 billion.

It’s no surprise that seniors and their families are looking for more affordable options for Alzheimer’s care. Many have found those options in foreign countries.

Affordable Alzheimer’s Care Abroad

The organization Patients Beyond Borders estimates that 900,000 Americans traveled abroad for treatment in 2013. On average, patients worldwide spent between $3,000 and 5,000 (USD) per visit. That includes all costs related to medical care, inpatient stay and accommodations, cross-border travel and local transport.

Known as “medical tourism,” the search for cost-effective health care in other countries has taken many Alzheimer’s patients to Asian countries, including Thailand and the Philippines.

Alzheimer’s Care in Asia

According to the Associated Press, places like Thailand’s Baan Khamlangchai attracts Alzheimer’s patients from around the world. It offers a peaceful setting, surrounded by mountains, and one-on-one care that many nursing homes simply can’t afford due to staff shortages and wage cuts.

The cost to live in an individual home on the facility’s grounds is around $3,800 a month. Genworth Financial reports that the average cost for round-the-clock care in a private room at a nursing home in the U.S. equals around $7,500 a month.

Along with personal medical care, the Thai facility takes residents to local markets, temples and restaurants, providing a rotation of three caretakers for each patient per day.

In the Philippines, Alzheimer’s sufferers can receive treatment for around $1,500 to $3,500 a month. Around 100 Americans currently receive care in the Philippines. More nursing care facilities, along with a marketing campaign, are planned for 2014.

Displacing Seniors With Alzheimer’s

Australia’s Herald Sun cites disagreement among experts on the benefits of seeking Alzheimer’s care abroad. Some argue that quality of care, no matter the location, comes first, while others stress the importance of keeping Alzheimer’s patients in familiar surroundings.

At home, friends, family and neighbors are close by to help support early memories and a familiar language and culture. However, as Alzheimer’s progresses, people with Alzheimer’s can adjust to a new setting, some experts say. How they’re treated and how their disease is accommodated makes the difference.

The Future of Foreign Alzheimer’s Care

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that by 2025 the number of adults over age 65 with Alzheimer’s will grow to 7.1 million. That’s a 40 percent increase over the 5 million seniors afflicted today. Projections show that nearly 13.8 million seniors will have Alzheimer’s by 2050.

Until a medical breakthrough or a resolution in treatment costs, many seniors and their families may look to the rest of the world for Alzheimer’s care.

Do you know any seniors who have traveled abroad for Alzheimer’s treatment? Please share your story below.

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Jennifer Wegerer

Jennifer Wegerer

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