There are over five million Americans suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s most commonly attacks the elderly, although younger individuals can also develop the disease. Today, as our elderly population increases and lives longer, the threat of Alzheimer’s has intensified, casting a dark cloud upon the final years of many senior citizens. Although the progression of the disease may be slowed down with treatment, the gradual reduction in mental capacity is inevitable, as there currently exists no known cure. A well-orchestrated plan of care may be the best defense in battling this debilitating disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is characterized as the gradual deterioration of the mind, resulting in a loss of capacity to perform the activities of daily living. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s begin to experience various symptoms such as confusion, loss of memory, orientation problems, difficulty with language and arithmetic, and changes in personality. Alzheimer’s Disease advances in stages from mild to moderate and finally to its most severe form where a patient can no longer communicate and is totally dependent upon others for their care.
Alzheimer’s Disease is often described as “the long goodbye,” due to its slow progression and longevity. The devastating effects of the disease not only deprive its sufferers of their independence and dignity, they can also take an enormous toll on family members and caregivers both emotionally and financially. Spouses and children are often horrified with the changes in their loved ones behavior and personality. Learning to understand the disease by becoming well informed and planning properly can make an uncertain future easier to navigate. Local support groups can offer caregivers new information, provide encouragement and help them deal with their anger, frustration and overall grief as they watch a loved one succumb to the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Through the use of proper Elder Law planning, families can ensure that those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease do not exhaust their available funds during the course of their illness. A person stricken with Alzheimer’s can linger on for years, medically healthy as Alzheimer’s eats away at their mental capacity. The cost of care can be staggering as many require 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living and supervision to guarantee their overall safety. Privately paying for health care services whether in the home or in an institutional setting can deplete an individual’s hard-earned savings within a short period of time, and leave them with insufficient income to pay for ordinary living expenses.
For those reasons it is critical to be informed about available Medicaid benefits. Most people erroneously believe they will not qualify for Medicaid and unnecessarily “spend down” their excess resources until they are impoverished. However, this does not need to be the case; in most instances achieving Medicaid eligibility is simply the result of effective planning. Those who obtain good advice and plan in advance will obtain the best results, although effective steps to protect assets can often be taken at the last minute.
An experienced Elder Law attorney can assist with custom tailoring a plan that helps patients and their families deal with Alzheimer’s unique challenges and obstacles. Besides qualifying for Medicaid benefits, there are other issues that must be taken into consideration. For example, there are two important legal documents that should be executed at the earliest possible opportunity. Each patient should choose a health care agent and complete a health care proxy, a document which allows your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf should you lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself. Individuals should choose an agent who will carry out their health care preferences and desires.
The other important legal document is the Power of Attorney, which gives an agent the ability to make and carry out financial decisions on your behalf. Together these two documents protect your medical and financial future as the symptoms of Alzheimer’s begin to surface and alter your daily existence. It is also possible to establish a legal contract called a Caregiver Agreement, whereby you employ family members, friends or an agency to assist in your care. A properly executed Caregiver Agreement is often the perfect way to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients receive the adequate level of care needed while providing financial support to a family member or friend who makes personal or financial sacrifices to care for their loved one.
Successful Elder Law planning can alleviate many of the emotional and financial burdens associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Through the use of proven techniques and methods, an Elder Law Attorney can help protect your financial resources while guaranteeing that you receive the highest quality care available. Safeguarding your assets means that your spouse of or other family members will be secure as well giving peace of mind to all. For further information on this subject consult, “The Top Ten Elder Law Strategies for Alzheimer’s Patients & Their Families,” A Special Report by David A. Cutner, Esq.