Planning becomes vital following Alzheimer’s diagnosis
If a family member has just received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, now is the time to start planning for the future. Don’t wait until it’s too late. From estate planning to safety tips, there’s plenty to think about now. It’s the cognitive abilities that deteriorate before physical abilities, so talking with your loved one now is imperative to proper planning for the future. Here’s what you need to talk about.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s patients and their families. The first thing they suggest is to look into legal planning. Learn where mom keeps all of her legal documents and create new ones if necessary. Think about not only a standard will but a living will as well, so that you know exactly what her wishes are regarding medical decisions. A Power of Attorney will allow you to make health care decisions and pay the bills when the time comes that mom no longer can. Although you probably don’t need an attorney to help with legal planning, you can find tips from the local Bar Association or healthcare facility.
It’s a scary and stressful topic, but finances are one of the most important things to discuss with your ailing family member. The US Department of Health and Human Services says that in 2015 “Alzheimer’s cost Americans billions of dollars in paid and informal care — and that number is growing.” Medical care can add up quickly, from medications to caregiving bills; make sure you have a plan in place and understand insurance and coverage options. Talk with Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance lenders to learn just what your options are. There is also long-term care insurance available and the US Department of Veterans Affairs that you can turn to for help.
Build a care team. The people who surround your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s will make all the difference. Start with close family members and friends who know them well, neighbors who can help out in an emergency and check in, and of course your doctor and medical team. The Alzheimer’s Association says you should have three circles of caregivers: family and friends, medical team, and community resources.
The Mayo Clinic argues that safety concerns should be addressed right away. Prevent falls and potentially dangerous situations by preparing early. Here are a few tips the Mayo Clinic offers:
- Install a shower chair and grab bars in the shower
- Install a monitoring device in the bedroom
- Address slippery surfaces with nonskid strips or a rug or carpet
- Remove artificial fruits or vegetables or other items that might look edible
- Avoid clutter and keep walking areas free of furniture and cords
- Keep stairs safe, lock doors, provide a night light, and simply prepare for emergencies
Before cognitive abilities decline, make sure loved ones understand the victim’s wishes. The Alzheimer’s Association encourages you to answer a few questions for loved ones, speaking frankly with them about who they want to be with them, what kind of caregiver they want, what kind of facility they want to be supported in. Medical questions also need to be answered, including the life-sustaining actions they might or might not want to be taken, such as feeding tubes, respirators, surgery and DNR. Talk about funeral plans and even brain donation.