Given its prevalence, almost everyone knows a little bit about Alzheimer’s disease. If it strikes someone you love, however, you may not know what to do. For both the patient and his/her loved ones, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be very emotional and may take some time to accept. Sometimes, focusing on the steps that need to be taken in the aftermath of a diagnosis can provide you with a focus and may help you feel like you are doing something beneficial. With that in mind, the Minot Medicaid planning attorneys at German Law 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, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and 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. Instead, 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, and even effective treatment for those suffering from the disease, more difficult. While there are some medications on the market now that help slow the cognitive decline that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s for some people, we are not yet close to finding a truly effective treatment regime, much less a cure.
Steps to Take After a Diagnosis
It is common to experience a range of emotions following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, including anger, denial, and depression. Many sufferers and loved ones also experience a feeling of helplessness because there is no cure for the disease. Taking the following steps can help you regain a certain amount of control over your life and your future as well as 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; however, at some point down the road, you will reach the point at which you are legally incapacitated. To ensure that someone of your choosing takes over control of your assets as well as 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, however, that in most states, an Agent cannot make end of life health care decisions even with a general POA. 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 that your wishes are honored is to execute an advance directive that expresses those wishes and/or appoints an Agent to make decisions for you when you are unable to make them yourself.
- Prepare for the cost of long-term care. Most Alzheimer sufferers eventually need the type of around the clock care and protection that is only available at a long-term care facility. The cost of that care will undoubtedly 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 that 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 even occur if family members cannot agree on some aspect of your care. To help prevent that and provide some direction, write down your wishes with regard to care, finances, and anything else you feel is important and make sure everyone gets a copy.
Contact a North Dakota Business Succession Planning Attorney
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about what to do following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, contact a Minot Medicaid planning attorney at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.