ST. JOSEPH, Mo.
Experts say that unless a cure to Alzheimer's is found, more than 7 million American's age 65 and older could have the disease by 2025. That's an increase of almost 35 percent over current figures.
People are living longer, meaning more people are beginning to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's as they progress into their Senior years as well as their families, who are coping with their loved ones suffering.
The Memory Cafe Alzheimer's support group sponsored by Mosaic Life Care helps Alzheimer's patients and their families with weekly meetings.
"I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I don't want to dream of that yet," said Donald Odette, who wife of 37 years, Darlene has been suffering from a form of dementia for the past four years.
Experts say there are many layers to the stress the disease places on families.
"You have the emotional devastation of just losing someone that you care for. You have the physical and emotional stress of caring with someone with Alzheimer's disease. Then you have the financial stress. It kind of creates a perfect stress storm," said Brenda Gregg, a dementia care specialist for the Alzheimer's Association, Northwest Missouri regional office.
People with Alzheimer's can live up to 20 years with the disease, which can make it a financially crippling ailment as well. Many families are forced to drain their savings for care and treatment before being able to qualify for Medicaid.
This comes at a time when Medicaid funding is being threatened.
"Changes to the Medicaid program are going to be extremely difficult for people in northwest Missouri to find a way to provide care for their loved one."
Healthcare providers say lawmakers in Jefferson City have put the squeeze on Medicare recipients, putting less money into the program while at the same time making it harder for someone to be able to qualify for assistance.
At the Living Community of St. Joseph, almost half of their long-term residents suffer from at least some form of Alzheimer's. Staff go through extra training to be able to care for these residents. While the cost of care isn't cheap, Medicaid reimbursement is just $162 per day, barely the cost of a nice hotel room.
"Their cost of care, cost of room and board, cost of medication, cost of any supplies are a cost to any facility that they can't pass along to the family or responsible party," said Christine Kerns, Administrator and CEO of the Living Community of St. Joseph.
Kerns fears that lower reimbursements combined with increased regulations could put many long-term skilled care facilities out of business. She says that would force patients into independent living situations, which are not covered by Medicaid.
For Don and Darlene Odette, they're going to continue to take it one day at a time.
"If you love someone you learn to handle it very carefully, very good," Don said.
Earlier this year Governor Eric Greitens cut funding to Medicaid by $12 million, or about 1.5 percent.
He also vetoed a bill that was meant to prevent cuts to in-home and nursing home care for 8,000 disabled or elderly Missourians.
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