There is certainly no right or wrong way to handle being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; however, there are some practical steps you should take because of that diagnosis. To help you focus on what you can do now to protect yourself and your wishes down the road, the Bellevue elder law attorneys at Legacy Estate Planning, LLC discuss some practical 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 several 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.
Practical Steps Following a Diagnosis
No one wants to feel helpless. Unfortunately, that is precisely how an Alzheimer diagnosis often makes everyone who is impacted feel. 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:
- Update your estate plan to ensure it includes incapacity planning. Numerous factors go into determining the progression of Alzheimer’s; 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.
- Execute an advanced directive. 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.
- Plan for the high 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 about medical and practical care, finances, and anything else you feel is important and make sure everyone gets a copy.
Contact Bellevue Elder Law Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns elder law issues, contact the experienced Bellevueelder law attorneys at Legacy Estate Planning, LLC by calling (425) 455-6788 to schedule an appointment.