The financial toll an Alzheimer's diagnosis has on a family

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It's emotionally devastating to watch your loved one deal with Alzheimer’s disease, and now a new report finds the financial toll is just as overwhelming.

Those who care for a loved one with Alzheimer's are jeopardizing their own financial stability and basic needs, says a new study from the Alzheimer's Association.

In fact, about half the caregivers were forced to cut back on their own expenses and personal needs in the past year, while others dipped into savings or retirement funds to pay for care.

So how can that be avoided? The first rule is to get educated and get together. 

"One of the things that we also recommend is that families come together in a family meeting, for example, and really talk through who is going to be responsible for what part, and, even when you have families that live across the country, they can all take part in different ways. There are things that can be done online," says Beth Kallmyer from the Alzheimer's Association.

The report discovered that there's a real knowledge gap. People don't know there's no Medicare safety net and they're woefully unprepared.

"What people believe, we found, that two-thirds of them believe that Medicare covers long-term care, things like nursing homes, and the truth is Medicare doesn't pay for that," says Kallmyer. "The costs of care are really expensive. A nursing home will average $80,000 - $91,000 a year and so most families aren't going to have that kind of money."

That's why caregivers are sacrificing their own groceries, medical care, selling vehicles and using their children's college saving to pay for the expenses.

Figuring out what resources are available is so important, as right now 5 million people have Alzheimer's disease and this year alone another 500,000 people will be diagnosed.

"The Alzheimer's Association has chapters in communities nationwide. We also have a 24-7 help line that people can call anytime day or night," says Kallmyer.

That number is 1-800-272-3900.

The advice from experts is to prepare for as much as possible, which means researching facilities and having a financial plan in place.