Preparing for Alzheimer's to Ease Burden of Caregivers

by Matthew Karr, Esq. on November 20, 2012

One of the many challenges of coping with Alzheimer’s is that there are many different stages that, unlike other diseases, can creep up on you slowly and last many years before a person is truly incapacitated. This can make planning ahead especially difficult; however starting early is always better than too late.

The fact is that you can live 20 years or more with Alzheimer’s disease and along with the physical toll, the emotional and financial wellbeing of both the victim and the family caregiver can be drastically altered. However, with careful financial decisions and estate planning, families can make it through those difficult years without going bankrupt.

Right now more than 15 million Americans provide about $210 billion in unpaid care a year to their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and every 68 seconds another American develops the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

More than 60% of caregivers rate their emotional stress as high or very high, and a third report symptoms of depression, the association reports.

Although advance planning cannot eliminate the emotional pain of watching Alzheimer’s degrade the mind of a family member, it can be easier to cope if preparations are made early.

The necessary legal documents, including durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, should be secured early in the disease’s progression so that caregivers can make financial and medical decisions for their loved one after they become unable to do so for themselves.

Family should also have documentation about their loved one’s investments and accounts from which funds may be needed to pay for their care. If LTC insurance is something you are interested in, it must be in place long before a diagnosis and will generally be unavailable to anyone with a pre-existing condition.

Property ownership is also an important consideration. In many cases the family home should be placed in trust so that can’t be considered as a source of payment for future bills from long term care.

The point is simple: people need to get their affairs in order because a lot of things happen unexpectedly when dealing with Alzheimer’s. Preparing ahead of time will also greatly reduce the burden on family caregivers, who will have a much clearer roadmap for how to best protect their loved one.

To talk with an estate planning attorney about how to prepare for your loved one’s care, call the Heritage Law Center.

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