Alzheimer’s is the only major disease for which we have no cure, no known cause, and no method of prevention. While researchers may be getting close to identifying the factors that cause the disease, a definitive cause (or causes) has yet to be identified. For both the patient and his or her loved ones, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be very emotional and may take some time to accept. Focusing on the practical ramifications of the diagnosis is easier initially. With that in mind, the Overland Park elder law lawyers at Parman & Easterday offer some steps to take after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, deterioration of thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, destroy the connections with other nerve cells and they ultimately die. Short-term memory is the first to fail when the Alzheimer’s disease destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus. Language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex. Unlike many other diseases, such as AIDS, experts do not believe Alzheimer’s has a single cause. They believe the disease is multi-faceted with a number of factors influencing the development of the disease. The complexity of the disease makes finding a cure or even effective treatment more difficult. While some medications on the market may help slow the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s for some people, we are not close to finding a truly effective treatment, much less a cure.
After a Diagnosis
After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it is common to experience a range of emotions including anger, denial, and depression. Many sufferers and loved ones experience a feeling of helplessness because there is no known cure for the disease. Taking the following steps can help you regain some control over your life and future, and help protect your loved ones and yourself:
- Review your estate plan with a focus on incapacity planning. The progression of Alzheimer’s is far from predictable. At some point, you will reach the point at which you are legally incapacitated. To ensure that someone of your choosing will be able to take control of your assets and personal decision-making for you, make sure you have an incapacity plan in place now.
- Review any existing Powers of Attorney. A traditional Power of Attorney (POA) terminates upon the incapacity of the Principal (creator). If you want a POA to survive your incapacity you must make it durable. Keep in mind that many financial institutions will not recognize a financial POA that is over five years old. Also in most states, the Health Care Proxy named in your health care POA cannot make end of life health care decisions. For that, you will need an advance directive.
- Make sure you have an advanced directive in place. If you have strong feelings about end of life medical treatment, the only way to ensure your wishes are honored is to execute an advance directive that expresses those wishes and appoints a Health Care Proxy to make decisions for you when you are unable to make them yourself.
- Prepare for the cost of long-term care. Most Alzheimer’s sufferers eventually need around the clock care and protection in a long-term care (LTC) community. The cost of that care may be prohibitive which is why you need to plan for it now. Like over half of all seniors today, you may need to rely on Medicaid to cover the cost of LTC. To ensure you qualify for Medicaid when the time comes, incorporate Medicaid planning into your estate plan today.
- Write down your wishes for your family. Family members often struggle with how best to care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, conflict may occur if family members cannot agree on some aspect of your care. Provide direction to help prevent problems. Write down your wishes with regard to care, finances, and anything else you feel is important and make sure everyone gets a copy.
Contact Overland Park Elder Law Lawyers
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding steps to take following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, contact the experienced Overland Park elder law lawyers at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.