Lots of things can happen as we age. Some of these are good things, like heading into retirement, or getting to spend quality time with children and grandchildren. However, as we age, we can also experience a decline in health and mental capabilities. We become more susceptible to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. This may sound scary, but don’t worry! With proper planning, you can be sure that you are prepared, even if the worst should happen.
Dementia/Alzheimer’s: The Basics
Dementia is the general term for loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. There are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common. More than 5 million Americans are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; this makes up between 60-80% of all dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time. The most common early symptom is difficulty remembering newly learned information, as this part of the brain is affected first. Additional symptoms can include memory failure, personality changes, and problems with carrying out daily activities. There is a variety of risk factors for this disease, including age, family history, genetics, head injuries, and heart health.
Now, none of this is meant to scare you! But, the more information you have available now, the better prepared you will be in the event that something happens to you or a loved one, however unlikely this may seem.
So, what are my options if I or a loved one am diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?
There are a few different options for care if you or a loved one are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Depending on the severity of the disease, you may actually be able to stay at home for quite a while. However, if you choose this course of action, you should understand that it is very likely you will need assistance from caregivers as the disease continues to progress. These caregivers can be family members, employees from outside services, or even a combination of the two.
If, for whatever reason, this option doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, residential care could be something to consider. Here at Rowling & Associates, we recently created a Senior Living Guide to function as an objective resource in choosing the type of residential care you or your loved one needs.
The guide covers several levels of care for those living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The first level is assisted living, where individuals can get help with activities of daily living and personal care, but don’t require any ongoing medical assistance. If in early stages of Alzheimer’s, you could spend some time in assisted living, still living a mostly independent life, before moving on to a higher level of care as the disease progresses.
In addition to assisted living, there are also the options of skilled nursing and memory care facilities. These offer round-the-clock care for individuals who need it while still being able to live in the privacy of their own apartment.
If this sounds like something you would like to learn more about or pursue, I encourage you to check out our assisted living guide, which can be located on our website.
How can I be sure my wishes will be honored after I’m diagnosed?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of memory impairing conditions and some of the most common options for individuals who are diagnosed with one of these diseases, let’s take a look at how to make sure your wishes are honored in the event that the worst happens to you.
The best way to go about this is to make sure that you have proper estate documents in place. As a whole, estate documents work to take care of your money, property, and other assets in the event of your death. However, there are also some types of estate documents that can work to protect your wishes while you are still alive.
The first of these is a durable power of attorney. Essentially, this is a document that enables a trusted person to handle your affairs if you become mentally incapable – meaning you either lack the mental ability to make informed decisions, or you are unable to communicate these decisions.
Another document that is more specifically applicable to this situation is the advance health care directive, also known as a living will. This document is helpful because it specifically pertains to issues of health. Essentially, it ensures that you will get the medical care you wish to receive…before you even get sick!
Here at R&A, we fully understand the importance of having proper estate documents in place.
No one wants to live their life in fear. That said, there’s nothing wrong with having an awareness that things may happen to us that we can’t control, such as an injury, an accident, or even being diagnosed with a severe illness. Being prepared for these types of situations can ensure that you will still be able to live the life you want and have your wishes honored, even if the worst happens to you.