Steps to Take after an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Sadly, there is a very real possibility that you will be faced with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis – either yours or that of a loved one — at some point during your lifetime. If that happens, will you know what to do? There is no way to fully prepare for the emotional impact of Alzheimer’s; however, there are things you can do to prepare for the medical, legal, and practical ramifications of the disease. With that in mind, the Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law discuss some steps you should take after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Understanding 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.
Steps to Take after a Diagnosis
- Update your estate plan. 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.
- Update a Power 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.
- Create 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 cost of long-term care. Most Alzheimer’s 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.
- Let your family know what you want. 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 regarding care, finances, and anything else you feel is important, and make sure everyone gets a copy.
Contact Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about what to do following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, contact the experienced Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.