ElderLaw News-The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News
ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Early Onset Alzheimer’s-Type Dementia

We’ve all felt moments when we’ve struggled to come up with a word or thought that is on the tip of our tongues, and many of us fear that these so-called “senior moments” are a sign of memory loss or serious cognitive disorder.

On June 28, 2016 Patricia “Pat” Summitt, the legendary basketball coach for the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers, lost her battle with early onset Alzheimer’s-type dementia, which she brought into the national spotlight upon her diagnosis in 2011. Coach Summitt was not a person who lost often, and by all accounts handled the transition in her life brought on by her disease with determination and grace. A rapid decline from a cognitive disorder at a young age, similar to that experienced by Coach Summitt, is a frightening prospect for anyone and merits an analysis of what should be done upon diagnosis.

Early onset Alzheimer’s–type dementia accounts for about 5% of the 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While this is a relatively small population, the consequences of the disease are devastating on a number of levels. Early onset Alzheimer’s-type dementia affects individuals younger than sixty-five, frequently afflicting those in their forties or fifties. Unlike the retired and elderly, these younger individuals frequently are mid-career and raising families. The additional caregiving burden and loss of income can frequently be devastating.

The initial diagnosis often paralyzes an individual with fear of a future with diminished capacity, but it should be a call to spring to action. Those diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s need to plan for their future or they will be creating large problems at work, at home, and with their family’s finances. Coach Summitt proactively planned after her diagnosis by cutting back her coaching responsibilities and transitioning control of the team to new leaders. That transition must have been difficult for a coach who won eight national championships and was a fixture at the University of Tennessee, but it was necessary. Such change is never easy, but a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, if caught early, generally means there is some time to make necessary changes. Frequently, catastrophic disease and accidents occur without any opportunity to plan; for this reason, an early diagnosis should be seen as an opportunity.

Aside from planning the transition of responsibilities at work and home, it is critical that plans be made with regard to legal decision-making documents. The diagnosed individual must determine which individuals will be in charge of financial and medical decisions when the cognitive decline worsens. From a financial standpoint, planning for care and other expenses should be undertaken immediately. If time is wasted prior to a plan being undertaken, it may mean that no true plan can be put in place because the diagnosed individual is not able to participate materially. Coach Summitt’s timeline between diagnosis and death was just over five years, which may seem long, but, due to the progressive nature of the disease, Coach Summitt had a significantly shorter period in which to plan.

A comprehensive financial and legal plan is critical to addressing the issues that will arise in the case of early onset Alzheimer’s. The ability to leverage insurance and government benefits can help alleviate potential losses in income. Additionally, making a comprehensive plan can alleviate stress for both caregivers and the diagnosed individual. Alleviating the day-to-day stress of the diagnosis allows for the diagnosed individual and caregiver to change focus from the stress of the diagnosis to the matters that the individual cares about and allows for important time to create memories, leave a legacy, and assist family members in adjusting to the diagnosis.

The elder law and estate planning attorneys at the The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm frequently assist families in navigating the complex legal and financial issues associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive conditions. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, especially early onset Alzheimer’s, allow us to assist in planning for your future.


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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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