This is an article from the German Law Group (https://germanlawgroup.com/) in Grand Forks, North Dakota, that we thought others may find helpful.
Over the last several decades, the older population in the United States has increased at an astounding rate. The Baby Boomer generation entering their retirement years coupled with a significant increase in the average life expectancy in the U.S. are largely responsible for the historical growth of the older population in America. Along with the elderly boom in the U.S, we have also seen a corresponding increase in the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The fear of developing Alzheimer’s disease is surpassed only by the fear of an actual diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. If you, or someone you love, have recently been diagnosed with the disease you are likely wrestling with a wide range of emotions and unanswered questions. These are some suggestions and guidance for those that have received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
You Are Not Alone – Facts and Figures on the Alzheimer’s Epidemic
Although there is hardly a shortage of opinions and theories, doctors and scientists have yet to figure out exactly why the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease has skyrocketed in recent years. The only thing that is crystal clear is that the number of people diagnosed with the disease has increased dramatically as the following facts and figures illustrate:
- Over 5 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S.
- Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops the disease
- 1 in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease
- Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased 89 percent
- By the year 2050, experts predict the number of people suffering from the disease in the U.S. to increase to 16 million.
- In 2017 alone, the cost of caring for Alzheimer patients is expected to be about $260 billion.
- Family and other caregivers will give another 18 million hours of unpaid care valued at an additional $230 billion.
What to Expect
While there are similarities, the way Alzheimer’s presents itself can vary as can the timeline for symptoms of the disease. What we do know is that Alzheimer’s causes more than just loss of memory. Your body essentially forgets how to function. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s disease causes death, as its progression eventually prevents your body from performing essential functions such as moving and swallowing. To date, there is no cure for the disease; however, proper medical care coupled with lifestyle changes can slow the progress and ease the symptoms of the disease. There will come a time, however, when it becomes unsafe for an Alzheimer sufferer to care for himself/herself. Whether you have been diagnosed yourself or you are the loved one of someone who has recently been diagnosed, there are important legal steps that need to be initiated now to protect everyone down the road.
Legal Steps to Consider Now
The reality is that at some point Alzheimer’s will make it practically and legally impossible for a sufferer to give consent to medical care as well as to make decisions regarding asset transfers and personal care. If you have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the time to make those decisions and provide that consent is now. If you put off acting until later, you run the risk of providing the grounds for a legal challenge to your ability to consent. The following steps will ensure that your wishes are honored:
- Update your Will and other existing estate planning documents. This is one of those life events that warrants an immediate review and revision (if needed) of your existing estate plan.
- Execute advance directives. You can appoint someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you when you reach the point at which you cannot make them yourself. You may also choose to make decisions now regarding your end of life healthcare, such as whether to authorize or refuse life-sustaining procedures.
- Consider a consensual guardianship or make your wishes clear regarding your choice of guardian. At some point, someone else will almost certainly need to become your legal Guardian and make decisions regarding your estate as well as your person. You can create a voluntary guardianship now or make it clear who you wish to be your Guardian down the road.
- Establish a revocable living trust. For valuable and important assets, establishing a revocable living trust can work as an excellent incapacity planning tool by allowing you to name a successor Trustee to take your place as Trustee in the event of your (inevitable) incapacity.