When someone in your family is diagnosed with a dementia related disease, it’s extremely important to put that person’s financial and end-of-life plans in order. It is also imperative to realize that procrastination and dementia do not mix well. Take care of this important task as soon after the diagnosis as you can.
In addition, when you are at the elder law attorney’s office taking care of your loved one’s needs, I want you to tell that attorney that you also need to put together a plan to protect you, the caregiver, as well.
Odds are that something will happen to you throughout this long campaign. The stress alone could force you into a hospital stay or worse. Stanford University did a survey and statistics show that about 45 percent of those who are caring for someone with a dementia related disease will die of a stress related disorder before their loved one passes. After caring for my dad for more than 10 tears, I believe the percentage might be even higher.
I’ve always said that if you don’t have a back-up plan, you don’t have a plan at all. Tell the attorney that you need alternate choices for power of attorney, health surrogate and whatever else needs to be put into play.
You might be the only one caring for the person in question, so what happens if you end up in the hospital for a week or longer? Without a doubt, the most common complaint I hear from caregivers everywhere is: “I’m the only one in my family willing to help. It’s just the two of us.”
This is why you need to start researching care facilities ahead of time. They may be able to take over the caregiving in case of an emergency like this. Don’t wait until you hear the wail of the siren or you’re already sick and lying in the hospital.
Face facts head on. It is very likely that something is going to happen to you at some point. Keeping a caregiver journal is a wise thing. This would inform an interim person of the names of medications and their dosage and the times to administer them. Be sure to include a rundown of your loved one’s daily routine. They’re going to become a mess when you’re gone, but if the person who steps in has some idea about what their standard routine is, this will help everyone involved immensely.
Even if you come down with the flu, the daily struggles of caregiving are going to become almost impossible for you. I don’t care how strong you think you are. Find some temporary respite and give yourself a chance to get back on your feet. Hey, even if you are not sick, find respite to keep yourself healthy! You’ll be doing everyone a favor.
I wish more doctors would recognize that treating just the person with the disease is not enough. Doctor appointments should be for both of 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 an expanded edition of “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness,” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.