More than 1 in 4 people over the age of 70 will be diagnosed with some form of alzheimer's or dementia. More than half of those will require some form of long term care, whether that care is by a loved one or professional at home, or in a skilled nursing facility, nursing home or long term care facility. While these statistics are startling, they are in no way surprising to the overwhelming number of us who has experienced the long walk home of a loved one afflicted with this debilitating illness.
The month of November has been designated as Alzheimer's Awareness Month. Festooned in teal ribbons, wrist bands and pins join in a moment of rememberance for all those afflicted, and solidarity with the family members and loved ones also affected.
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder. It impacts a patient's memory, thinking and language skills as well as the ability to carry out the simplest day to day tasks. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is not a disease, but a term used to describe symptoms such as loss of memory, loss of judgment and other intellectual functions. Alzheimer's disease can cause dementia. Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging, and it is important to look for the signs that might indicate Alzheimer's disease, not the basic forgetfulness or other conditions.
What are the stages of Alzheimer's Disease?
Stage 1 : Early or mild
A person with early or mild Alzheimer's often forgets words or misplaces objects. They may forget things they just read, ask the same question over and over, have increasing trouble making plans or oganizaing things, and fogetting names of people they just met.
Stage 2 : Middle or moderate
A person suffering the middle stage of Alzheimer's disease suffers from increased memory loss and confusion. They may often have problems recognizing family and friends, or continually repeat stories or motions. In this stage, someone with Alzheimer's will have a decreased ability to perform complex tasks or handling personal finances like paying bills. Other signs include a lack of concern for hygiene and appearnace, or a prevailing need for assistance in getting dressed for the day.
Stage 3 : Late or severe
For someone with late stage Alzheimer's disease, he or she may recongnize faces, but not names, often mistaking a person for someone else. They may suffer from delustions, like thinking they have to go to work, eventhough they've been retired for a decade. A sign of late stage Alzheimer's disease includes a strong need to hold an object close for stimulation or comfort. The patient may forget the need to eat, walk or sit up, and fail to recognize that he or she is thirsty or hungry, requiring help with all basic activities of daily living.
What steps can you take to prepare for Long Term Care costs associated with Alzheimer's Disease?
There really is no way to prepare for the physical and emotional toll that caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease can bring. But there are ways you can prepare for the economic costs associated with it.
Because Alzheimer's patients will likely need prolonged care, whether at home or in a nursing facility, the financial burden on a family may be huge. All too often, the adult age children of Alzheimer's patients take time off from work to provide care for their parents. In more advanced cases, this care is supplemented with a home health aide, a nurse, or some additional care costing thousands of dollars monthly. Even more advanced patients, because they present a danger to themselves and to others, require care in a skilled nursing facitliy, nursing home or health residence.
The high cost of these services can bankrupt a family. After a lifetime of savings and hardwork, families who fail to plan, can wipe out all of those efforts, wiping out the legacy they wanted to leave for their children.
An experienced elder law and estate planning lawyer can assist with a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust or Irrevocable Trust, in order to protect the family's assets. By properly securing these assets, an Alzheimer's patient can become elligible for Medicaid, a government program designed to provide impoverished Americans much needed health care. Medicaid's elligibility rules are complicated, and by engaging an experienced elder law and estate planning lawyer, you too can protect your family's lifetime of hard work.