Dealing with Alzheimer's Disease

Estate planning becomes particularly important in the context of dealing with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.  Approximately 5.1 million persons in the United States are thought to suffer from Alzheimer's Disease (AD).  Most of those suffering from AD are over the age of 60, although up to 5% of  people in their 40s and 50s suffer from early-onset Alzheimer's. The disease affects approximately 3% of persons ages 65-74 and up to 50% of persons over the age of 85.  Unfortunately, the disease is fatal and its effects are irreversible.

AD is one of the most common forms of dementia, a progressive condition marked by forgetfulness, disorientation in time and place, inability to follow directions, inability to maintain personal hygiene or nutrition, and more.  As a result, complete 24-hour skilled nursing long-term care is eventually needed.  Furthermore, because AD lasts from 3 to 20 years, it significantly increases the already high costs of long-term care thereby causing enormous financial hardship in the lives of individuals and their families.

From an estate planning perspective, AD is particularly worrisome because it eventually renders the individual incapable of executing important legal documents.  For this reason, it is important to immediately plan for the future (in the early stages of AD, you may still be capable of completing important legal documents) by putting into place or revising your will or trust, executing a general durable power of attorney and advance health care directives, and making sure that assets are properly titled and allocated.  These documents will facilitate the orderly and desired distribution of your property, and will provide for the management of your property and health care at the time of your incapacity.  Taking these steps will save you and your family time, trouble, and money, and will give you peace of mind going forward.

With the proper estate planning documents in place, individuals diagnosed with AD should plan for their continuing care throughout the stages of the disease without delay. Independent living, adult day care, home health care, assisted living, and nursing home care options should be completely evaluated and nursing home care plans developed. An evaluation of the individual's financial status and ability to provide for their own long-term health care is a necessity.  The Medicaid rules should be discussed in detail including strategies for asset protection and gifting where appropriate.

Planning and evaluating for future eventualities is the key to dealing with the Alzheimer's Disease.  As knowledgeable elder law and estate planning attorneys see our Estate Planning section, we assist individuals and their families in evaluating all of the issues and information surrounding Alzheimer's.  We also advise guardianship issues.  We provide consultations and evaluations at facilities, your home, or our office.

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