A Positive Measure to Preserve the Dignity of a Loved One Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s
By Attorney Alan Hougum
World Alzheimer’s Day is sponsored by Alzheimer’s Disease International with the purpose of both raising awareness of dementia and challenging the stigma. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the stigma and misinformation surrounding dementia is a global problem, requiring global action. Did you know that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are categorized as a mere symptom of aging, rather than the result of a disease process? This can have the unfortunate consequence of delaying the diagnosis of a person with Alzheimer’s until the disease may be advanced enough to be recognized by family members as something more than age associated memory loss.
Bringing awareness to the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s can provide early access to medical care and can also provide a newly-diagnosed person the opportunity to make their own plans for the future, including both treatment and legal decisions. One of the fears of a person newly-diagnosed may be what will happen to him or her, as the disease progresses? Will family be burdened by their care? Will nursing home care be needed?
An estate planning attorney can assist with the advanced planning for these concerns, offering a level of control to an uncertain future. A durable power of attorney for both financial and health care decisions can be created, leaving a trusted person with the power to assist with these decisions. An advanced directive can be executed, setting forth parameters as to the type of life-sustaining treatment they would like to receive. A trust can be created to provide for the disposition of a person’s assets, including asset protection planning, so all of a person’s assets are not depleted by medical costs.
It can be, however, critical to understand that time is of the essence with a person with Alzheimer’s because, in order to execute these documents, he or she must have legal capacity, generally meaning an ability to understand actions being taken and the consequences of them, as well as, orientation to family members.