I am the first to agree that no one wants even to imagine a dementia related disease entering his or her family's life. Speaking from firsthand experience, I truly hope that it never does. However, this is a "What if?" conversation everyone should have with family members. Initiate such a discussion before the disease knocks on the door. At that point shock, denial and confusion permeate the air and it is difficult to remain calm and make wise choices.
From personal experience I can tell you that once a disease like Alzheimer's enters your life, everything changes. Emotionally, financially, socially, it will turn your life upside down. I wish I had learned a little bit about this disease before it crashed through my front door.
Before it came roaring in, I should have talked with an elder law attorney. I would have asked him/her what things to have in place to protect not only my father but myself. There are always at least two people involved, sometimes more - especially as the disease progresses.
The percentages of caregivers dying from stress related diseases before the patients do are high, and increasing. So when you sit down with your lawyer, make sure you create a plan to protect everyone involved.
Caring or living with dementia is like rolling a huge rock up a mountain. The farther the disease progresses, the steeper the incline becomes. Don't let yourself get to the point where the rock becomes a boulder. Before you can reach the summit it undoubtedly will crush you as it rolls back down the mountain of good intentions. This illustration is meant to convince anyone reading these words to make a plan that takes care of as many of the legal worries as possible early on.
The financial cost of dealing with dementia can ruin caregivers and patients alike. The expense of home care and nursing facilities quickly drains bank accounts, destroying financial plans of retirement, not to mention all the other costs that accumulate with this disease.
The good news is there are ways to be protected. That's why I suggest seeking professional advice before dementia taps at the window.
Never say, "This will never happen to me.'" Those words will cost you.
For a decade Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father, after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His newly released book "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," and his other books "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness," can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.