What should a family do when they have a loved one with Alzheimer's?
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In 1998 my mother passed away. During the last few years of her life she suffered with Alzheimer's disease. My heart goes out to familes that are struggling with this cruel disease now. Alzheimer's is only one of many different forms of dementia. I use the words Alzheimer's and dementia interchangably though they are not always the same thing. There are many prospective to look at when a loved one suffers with dementia. I wrote the following story to help others understand how a couple might feel that was planning on a wonderful retirement; then dementia struck.
Sure! Imagine you are finally going on a well-deserved vacation. You have been looking forward to it for some time. Your trip begins on a beautiful sunny day. You aren't driving so you doze off. In a while you wake up not knowing how long you slept. The sky is dark, and seems to be getting darker by the minute. Nothing looks familiar. Your driver seems disoriented. Your car has stopped. You wonder if there is enough fuel to get to the next gas station. Filled with fear, you aren't sure where you are. The thoughts of a wonderful vacation have vanished. You are in the middle of nowhere with no way to get back. You fight back tears. You try not to panic!
These are the feelings of many couples when they find out one has dementia. They know the journey will be long, but they have no idea how long. They know the days are dark, but aren't sure how much darker they will get. Their loved one is disoriented; unable to help. They don't know which way to turn, or where to get the strength to make the journey. Getting back to a normal life is no longer an option. The fear and confusion is devastating. Now imagine a gentle tap on the window. A friendly person tells you where you are, and where to get the fuel for the journey back. The friendly neighbor tells you that you can and will make it. We want to be that friendly neighbor. Meeting the needs of families struggling with dementia is a task we embraced.
I stress the urgency of the situation. During early stages a lot of good can be done that can't be done later. By acting during in the early stages many families can be spared the humiliation of a competency hearing. With proper planning, financial resources may be protected and assets may be saved. By having a financial and legal plan tailored to a family's needs, the family could avoid many costly pitfalls later.