Despite a common misperception, Alzheimer’s disease is not a newly discovered disease. It is, however, an increasingly prevalent disease with one out of every nine people age 65 and older developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Consequently, there is a good chance that you or someone close to you is, or will be, living with Alzheimer’s at some point during your life. With that in mind, a Murfreesboro elder law attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discusses what you need to know about Alzheimer’s disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease that was originally discovered and identified over a century ago in 1906. The National Institute on Aging explains Alzheimer’s disease as “a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” While there is an “early onset” form of Alzheimer’s, most people do not begin to exhibit symptoms of the disease until they are in their 60s or later. Alzheimer’s has the unfortunate distinction of being the most common cause of dementia among older adults with one out of every three seniors dying with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
While we now have diagnostic tests that can help predict who will develop the disease and medical treatments that help slow the progression of the disease, we have yet to fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease, nor do we have a way to cure the disease. What we do know is that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that goes through seven stages. The first stage of Alzheimer’s, referred to as “pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease,” happens 10 to 15 years before symptoms are visible but causes changes in the brain. By stage four, damage to the brain results in difficulty with language, organization, and calculations as well as noticeable memory loss, personality changes, and moodiness. Caregiving will be needed at this point with round-the-clock care usually required by stage five.
Steps to Take Following an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you are undoubtedly experiencing a range of emotions. While it may be difficult to focus on the practical ramifications of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it is important to do so. Taking the following steps may help:
- Review and update your estate plan. To make sure that your estate is handled according to your wishes, now is the time to sit down and review your estate plan. Update fiduciary roles and beneficiaries if needed. Keep in mind that at some point the disease will impact your legal capacity to execute many estate planning documents, making now the time to create or update your estate plan.
- Execute an Advance Directive for Health Care. The time will come when someone else needs to make healthcare decisions for you. To ensure that the person making those decisions is the person you want making them, execute an Advance Directive for Health Care now. Doing so ensures that your designated Agent has the necessary legal authority when the time comes to use it.
- Execute a Living Will. Like many people, you may have strong feelings about end-of-life care. If so, the way to ensure that your wishes will be honored is to execute a Living Will that effectively lets you make those decisions yourself now. Those decisions must be honored by your physicians according to Tennessee law.
- Talk to your estate planning attorney about Medicaid planning. The time will come when you need round-the-clock care which may require moving you to a long-term care facility. To ensure that you can afford the high cost of that care without putting assets at risk, talk to your estate planning attorney about incorporating Medicaid planning into your estate plan.
Contact a Murfreesboro Elder Law Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about how to handle an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro elder law attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.