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 Signs of Dementia and What to Do About Them

The Alzheimer’s Association’s website, www.alz.org, has a page devoted to 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

I commend the site to your review, especially if you are trying to figure out whether you have dementia or just age-related memory changes. Particularly for those of us who have a relative who has struggled with dementia, it always a concern when things get forgotten. Among the signs that could signal dementia are:

- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, especially recently learned information;

- Challenges in planning or solving problems, like following a familiar recipe;

- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure, like how to drive to a familiar location or remembering the rules of a favorite game;

- Confusion with time or place, like losing track of seasons or the passage of time;

- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, like difficulty reading or judging distance, the latter of which may manifest as trouble driving.

- New problems with words in speaking or writing, like having trouble following a conversation, stopping in the middle of a conversation and repeating themselves, or struggling with common vocabulary and calling thing by the wrong name;

- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps, like putting eyeglasses in the freezer;

- Decreased or poor judgment, like giving large amounts to telemarketers or losing track of cash, or like paying less attention to personal grooming;

- Withdrawal from work or social activities they used to enjoy; and

- Changes in mood and personality, like becoming confused or suspicious or anxious.

If you or a loved one is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, your first step should be to contact your physician and schedule an appointment to discuss what you are experiencing. If early dementia is diagnosed, early intervention may provide some symptomatic relief and allows a longer period of independent living. Your second step should be contacting an elder law attorney.

When someone receives a dementia diagnosis, the entire family goes through stages of shock and fear about the future. However, contact with an experienced elder law attorney can help the family through this stage with proper planning. It is vital that planning be done before the disease becomes so advanced that the patient loses their capacity to sign the documents necessary to implement a plan.

One component of any plan will be reviewing and updating necessary estate planning documents. In addition, it is likely that general durable powers of attorney and advanced medical directives may need to be updated or created. These latter two documents are extremely important when diseases like dementia are in play because as the disease progresses, the natural course will be that the client likely loses capacity at some point before death. In that situation, it is important that agents be appointed and empowered to make the decisions necessary to carry out the client’s wishes, implement a financial plan and to protect assets. For clients who may need to rely on public benefits to help pay for care in the face of a dementia diagnosis, it is extremely important that existing powers of attorney be reviewed to ensure that the powers necessary to implement an asset protection plan are specifically granted to the agent in the power of attorney. For most people who have created powers of attorney when younger and healthier or without an eye towards public benefits planning, their powers of attorney do not contain the powers necessary to implement all of the asset protection and eligibility strategies that can be employed.

A second component of any plan will be reviewing the overall financial health of the family to determine how the family plans to pay for care when it becomes necessary. We will look at all avenues to assist in paying for care. We will discuss care at home and care in a facility. We will discuss the feasibility of maintaining the family in their home from both the client’s perspective as well as that of the caretaker. We will discuss all the options available, including private pay and governmental benefits. When it is still possible for everyone in the family to understand and materially participate in the formation of a plan of care is the time to make the plan. By understanding the options available and how best to achieve your financial goals, we can relieve much of the stress and fear that comes from facing an uncertain future.

Unfortunately, dementia is becoming a more common diagnosis as our population ages. But the fear of running out of money and not being able to afford care should not be thrown on top of your other concerns.


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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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