A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is devastating. While you might have already experienced some confusion and memory loss, it is nothing compared to what’s to come as the disease progresses. As hard as it will be to confront the reality of the diagnosis, you can save yourself and your family members even more heartache and pain by taking some proactive steps now to prepare.
Learn All You Can About the Disease
Most of us know that Alzheimer’s disease usually affects the elderly and causes memory loss, but that may be the extent of our knowledge. It is important that you and your family members and close friends understand how the disease progresses and how you will be impacted by the disease. Your doctor and organizations such as a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Alliance can provide you with the information you need. It won’t be easy to learn about the devastating effects of the disease, but it’s vital that everyone involved understands what is going to happen.
Make Decisions About Your Care
In the early weeks and months of the diagnosis, it’s important that you have discussions with loved ones about how you want to be cared for as your condition gets worse. Some of these decisions will be based on your finances. If you have the resources, you might want to be placed in a long-term care facility when the time comes. You can even schedule tours so that you can select the facility yourself. Letting your spouse and children know that you want to be in a facility will release them of the burden of making the decision when you can no longer care for yourself. The idea of “putting you in a home” might be difficult for your loved ones, but if it’s your decision, it will make it that much easier for them.
However, if you do not have the savings or income to pay for a quality facility and everyone involved thinks it’s best for you to be cared for in your own home, you need to make some decisions about who will care for you and how that person will be supported. Being the caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient is a hands-on, 24/7 responsibility, and no one should be expected to do the job alone. Getting a commitment from your adult children to help your spouse, figuring out how to pay for a part-time home healthcare worker, and identifying caregiver support groups in the community are a few steps you can take now.
Designate Healthcare and Financial Powers of Attorney
Now is the time to take care of any business that requires your input and signature. Most importantly, you must make sure you have a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Financial Power of Attorney. These documents will appoint an agent to make decisions on your behalf once you are no longer able to do so. You should discuss your wishes for long-term and end-of-life care with your healthcare agent so that there is no confusion later on about what you would want. Organize all of your financial information and sit down with your financial agent to show them what accounts you have and to share statements and passwords. It will be hard enough for your agents—who are usually a spouse or adult children—to exercise their powers of attorney without going into it blind.
Meet With an Elder Law Attorney
There are helpful resources in every community for people coping with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We recommend getting in touch with these agencies as early as possible to take advantage of their knowledge and the services they provide. We also advise meeting with an Elder Law attorney to review your will and estate plan to make sure they are up to date and reflect your wishes for the future. At Ross & Shoalmire, we have personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease, and we will be frank and honest about your future needs and how to plan for them now. If you have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, reach out to our Elder Law team. We can help you and your family face this challenge head-on.