In the late 1980’s my grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We didn’t really know that much about it and NO ONE talked about it easily. There were no support groups around. My grandpa lived with this in total secrecy. I don’t even think he talked about it with my grandma. She had no one to talk to except my mom and me but I was a teenager so I probably wasn’t very helpful, although I did help take care of him. In 1992, after he died, we found handwritten notes from him of his thoughts (not feelings) about what was going on in his brain. It was so sad to read and the experience was extremely challenging.
Alzheimer’s LA, the Alzheimer’s Association and tons of other non-profits around the country have changed how we respond to the disease. People talk about it now. There are support groups for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Our loved ones no longer have to suffer silently. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about how different it is today. I’ve heard that if we live to be over 80 years old, 50% of us will develop some sort of dementia. This is astonishing to many.
Having helped care for 7 family members so far (not including my parents yet), it’s not surprising that when I became a lawyer in 2005, I gravitated to elder law. In our estate planning and elder law practice, we hear from people every week, if not every day, about someone with dementia. Although every disease has its challenges, dementia can be extraordinarily difficult. Slowly losing our cognitive function, becoming aggressive and maybe violent, acting irrational due to paranoia and eventually losing who we are is devastating for everyone.
This article is short so it cannot go into too many details. I want to emphasize two main points:
- Get involved and get support!
- Prioritize getting your estate plan created or updated before it’s too late to help ensure that your wishes are honored, you avoid court and that family harmony is maintained.
Regarding your estate plan, even if you think it’s done, you may be surprised to find that parts of it are missing, it’s incomplete or drastically outdated. The cost of doing this now is pennies compared to what it will cost if you wait too long. Once you lose mental capacity, you cannot create these documents. This will lead to conservatorship, probate, family drama in court and the waste of tens of thousands of dollars.The horror stories we hear and try to resolve are endless and I don’t want to scare you (but I kind of do). Please, please, please, reach out to your elder law attorney today. We are here to help if you need us.