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An initial Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be a very emotionally taxing time for the loved one and their family members. It is common that your loved one may experience a progression similar to the stages of grief. During this time, it is important to let your loved one know that you are present to love and support them. It is also important to begin planning for the future with your loved one and your family. The following steps can help you to begin planning for the many things that need to be considered for the future care of your loved one. If this can be done when your loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, often the loved one will still be able to help with planning to ensure their wishes are carried out.
- Get Educated – The first step to planning for the care of a loved one is for the family to get educated. There are many resources available that can help families better understand Alzheimer’s disease and its effects on people. There are also resources and treatments that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Websites like Alzheimer’s Association offer a wealth of information about Alzheimer’s disease and care, as well as support for families of Alzheimer’s patients. Your loved one’s physician or neurologist is also an excellent source of information, especially for questions specifically related to your loved one.
- Family Meeting – The next step is to hold a family meeting to discuss future planning for your loved one. All interested parties should be included in the meeting, including your loved one with Alzheimer’s if they are able. In the meeting, family should discuss long term care needs, financial needs, and legal needs. Family members can decide who will take on the various responsibilities associated with caring for their loved one. This meeting will allow the family to have a plan to lead to the next steps.
- Legal Planning – This step is an important step and one that can be overwhelming for many families. There are powers of attorney that need to be considered, as well as wills or trusts, and other documents that should be put into place. An experienced elder law attorney can walk your family through the process of legal planning to help ensure that all important legal matters are taken care of and your loved one and your family are protected.
- Financial Planning – This step often overlaps with legal planning and the elder law attorney may be of help with this. If your family has a financial planner, they are also an excellent resource. First, determine the care needs of your loved one now and as the Alzheimer’s progresses and determine the cost of the care. Identify all of the financial resources that can help pay for care, such as insurance, Social Security, Medicaid, veteran’s benefits, long-term care insurance, and other assets your loved one may have. Also, determine family members that should be involved in routine financial matters and put a financial plan in place.
- Organize a Care Team – You have heard the statement, “It takes a village…”. This is true when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The village is the care team. A care team is all the people that will provide care for the Alzheimer’s patient. The care team may change or grow as the disease progresses, but it is important to begin this process early on. The care team may have family members who will be involved in caring for the loved one, as well as physicians, and other outside caregivers.
- End of Life Planning – This step can be a very emotional part of planning, but is very necessary. If this is done during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, it allows your loved one to express their wishes for their end of life care. Some of this will be taken care of during the legal planning portion of planning as legal documents are needed for wishes to be carried out. This is also the time to plan for the funeral and burial of your loved one. Your loved one will be able to express their wishes.
Once your family receives the news that a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, it can set life into what seems like chaos. It is important to deal with the emotions that both you and your loved one are experiencing. Then get support and plan, plan, plan. This will help to minimize the stress of Alzheimer’s on your family.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.