Although Alzheimer’s disease is not new, the rate at which people are being diagnosed with the disease is something we have never seen before in the United States. Understandably, anyone who is middle age or older likely harbors some fear of developing the disease. If you (or a loved one) were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you are probably experiencing a range of heightened emotions. Sometimes it helps to focus on what you can control instead of what you cannot. Toward that end, the Kirkwood elder law attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC offer suggestions for practical steps to take after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, deterioration of thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex. Unlike many other diseases, such as AIDS, experts do not believe Alzheimer’s has a single cause. Instead, they believe the disease is multi-faceted with a number of factors influencing the development of the disease. The complexity of the disease makes finding a cure, and even effective treatment for those suffering from the disease, more difficult. While there are some medications on the market now that help slow the cognitive decline that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s for some people, we are not yet close to finding a truly effective treatment regime, much less a cure.
Alzheimer’s By the Numbers
Given the exposure Alzheimer’s gets in the media it is all but impossible to ignore the prevalence of the disease; however, the following statistics tell the shocking story of just how serious the problem is, and is expected to be, in the United States:
- An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s, up from 5 million in 2017.
- By 2050, an estimated 14 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s
- Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
- One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia.
- 1 million people provide unpaid care to someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia in America
- Between 2000 and 2015, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 123 percent
- Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds
- By 2050, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.
Practical Steps to Take
No one wants to feel helpless. Unfortunately, that is precisely how an Alzheimer diagnosis often makes everyone who is impacted feel. Taking the following steps can help you regain a certain amount of control over your life and your future, as well as help protect your loved ones and yourself:
- Update your estate plan to ensure it includes incapacity planning. Numerous factors go into determining the progression of Alzheimer’s; however, at some point down the road, you will reach the point at which you are legally incapacitated. To ensure that someone of your choosing takes over control of your assets as well as personal decision-making for you, make sure you have an incapacity plan in place now.
- Execute an advanced directive. If you have strong feelings about end of life medical treatment, the only way to ensure that your wishes are honored is to execute an advance directive that expresses those wishes and/or appoints an Agent to make decisions for you when you are unable to make them yourself.
- Plan for the high cost of long-term care. Most Alzheimer sufferers eventually need the type of around the clock care and protection that is only available at a long-term care facility. The cost of that care will undoubtedly be prohibitive which is why you need to plan for it now. Like over half of all seniors today, you may need to rely on Medicaid to cover the cost of LTC. To ensure that you qualify for Medicaid when the time comes, incorporate Medicaid planning into your estate plan today.
- Write down your wishes for your family. Family members often struggle with how best to care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, conflict may even occur if family members cannot agree on some aspect of your care. To help prevent that and provide some direction, write down your wishes with regard to care, finances, and anything else you feel is important and make sure everyone gets a copy.
Contact Kirkwood Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about the legal steps that are involved with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, contact the experienced Kirkwood elder law attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.
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