Although Alzheimer’s disease is not a new disease, its prevalence appears to have increased in recent decades. While that may simply be because we now recognize the symptoms of the disease earlier, the fact remains that one in nine people aged 65 or older are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you are undoubtedly still wrestling with the motional impact of that diagnosis. At some point, however, there are some practical steps you should take. To help you with the practical and legal ramifications of your diagnosis, the Los Angeles elder law attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC discuss what you need to know if you were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease, though complex, is explained by the National Institute on Aging as a brain disorder that gradually erodes memory, thinking abilities, and eventually the capacity to perform even basic tasks. It stands as the leading cause of dementia in older adults, typically not showing symptoms until age 60 or beyond. Despite ongoing research, the exact cause of Alzheimer’s remains uncertain, and unfortunately, there is no known method of preventing or curing Alzheimer’s disease yet.
What Practical Steps Should I Take If I Was Just Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms become more pronounced as time goes by. The disease has seven stages, with stage one starting 10 to 15 years before symptoms begin to show. By the time a sufferer reaches stage five or six, symptoms of the disease can render the individual incapacitated for legal purposes. That means that there are steps you should take now while you are still able to take them if you were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, such as:
- Executing an Advance Directive. If you have specific preferences about end-of-life medical treatment, you want to ensure that those preferences are honored and the only way to do that is by executing the appropriate advance directive. A Living Will allows you to express your wishes concerning end-of-life health care while a health care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you reach the point of incapacity and can no longer do so yourself.
- Review and revise your estate plan. While we know that the disease is progressive, Alzheimer’s progression is also unpredictable. As such, any changes you want to make to your estate plan should be accomplished now to ensure that those changes cannot be challenged on the basis of your lack of testamentary capacity.
- Consider adding Medicaid planning to your estate plan. As Alzheimer’s advances, you may need specialized care in a long-term care facility. The cost of that care can be extremely high, averaging over $140,000 per year in California in 2022. To prepare for this, incorporate Medicaid planning into your estate plan to make sure that you qualify for Medicaid benefits when needed without putting your assets at risk.
- Tell your family what you want. To help prevent conflicts among family members and provide clear guidance to anyone involved in the decision-making process, communicate your care preferences, financial decisions, and any other important matters to your family members now. Putting your wishes in writing and sharing them with your family will help them understand and follow honor your wishes.
Do You Need an Elder Law Attorney?
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you need assistance with elder law issues, contact the experienced Los Angeles elder law attorneys at Schomer Law Group APC by calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.