Waiting to learn whether you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease is an uneasy time, one usually filled with turmoil and uncertainty. But you may be able to find comfort in facing the disease head on and establishing a plan for your future with Alzheimer's.
You might have already made plans for your golden years, perhaps retiring to a sunny location or moving to a nice little retirement community near your adult children. But now the threat of Alzheimer’s disease complicates the decisions you have made regarding your future care.
Early planning, even planning that occurs while you await a diagnosis, is essential because it allows Alzheimer’s disease patients to work through complicated issues and participate in decision-making before dementia sets in.
You or your loved one with the disease should choose official caregivers and express your wishes for your future care to eliminate guesswork later on.
How can you pay for your care?
Although Americans are living longer and, for the most part, healthier lives, we come to expect a certain number of health problems as we get older.
Most people expect to develop arthritis or poor eyesight after a certain age, so they plan to make simple changes like taking medicine or having glaucoma surgery as needed. Planning for future medical decisions in cases of Alzheimer’s disease, however, is much more complicated than planning for other conditions as Alzheimer’s is, itself, so complex.
In the early stages of the disease, nascent memory loss can make it difficult for you to maintain a prescribed treatment plan or notice side effects. Later on, brain changes affect body systems to interfere with swallowing, balance, and bowel and bladder control. These physiological changes present problems in and of themselves, but they also increase the risk for pneumonia, infections, and injuries from falls.
People with Alzheimer’s disease, therefore, require significantly more medical care and supervision than those without the condition, especially in the late stages of the disease. This level of care requires long-term financial planning that often interrupts previous plans for those funds.
While you await a diagnosis, consider how your financial needs might change to cover your future care. Consult with a qualified financial advisor who can counsel you on how to make your money last throughout the entire course of your illness and decide who will handle your finances as your disease progresses.
Where will you live?
Alzheimer's is a progressive condition that eventually robs those afflicted of the ability to take care of themselves-- a complication that prevents most people from living alone in the middle to late stages of the condition. Even people who hadn't planned on living alone-- taking up residence with an adult child or other family member-- must consider whether this is now the best choice for themselves and their family.
While it may be safe for you to live alone with minimal intervention during the early stages of Alzheimer's, as the disease progress, your family caregiver may not have the resources or the knowledge to provide the care you need. There are, however, many nursing care facilities that are especially designed for the needs and comfort of residents with Alzheimer’s disease.
While in the early stages of the disease, tell your caregiver if you prefer to live in one living facility to another and decide what to do with your home, if you own one.
Is your family aware of your wishes regarding your care and finances?
An Alzheimer's diagnosis will have ramifications for current legal arrangements, too, as the disease will slowly degrade “legal capacity,” which is the ability to understand make rational decisions.
Being diagnosed necessitates special legal planning to ensure that your health, long-term care, financial and property needs are covered. Consider naming a trusted friend or family member “power of attorney” so that they are able to make decisions on your behalf in the future.
Talk openly with your loved ones regarding your decisions-- they will be your strongest support while you await your diagnosis and will be there when you make difficult new decisions regarding your future care.