Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Dementia

Dementia and planning for the unknown with estate planning

Alzheimer’s Disease is not just a medical diagnosis; it’s a life-altering challenge, particularly for the families who love and care for those affected. I want to share a story about a family that is close to us and who has been living with this harsh reality for over ten years and the lack of planning is impacting the family unit.

The mother of this family was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her early 70s – a relatively young age for such a daunting prognosis. Her husband had passed away five years earlier, leaving her and her adult children to manage this prognosis and the decisions that followed.

Her two adult children, driven by love and duty, tried to maintain normalcy for their mother at her home. Luckily, both children lived within 45 minutes away from her, so they could check in on her often.

As the disease progressed, they hired an amazing woman who came into the house for years to help her stay safe.  But as her condition worsened, they had to keep adding additional support to a point when it became too much.

Eventually, they had to transition her into a memory care facility for her safety. Fast forward eight years, and she now exists in a world far removed from the one she once shared with her family.

Her children, once united and extremely close, faced a heart-wrenching decision – whether to continue waking her for nutrition when her body showed no signs of hunger. It was a decision that strained their relationship, not only with each other but with the care facility, which insisted on following its own protocols.

This situation could have been different. Their mother, who had ensured that her husband’s departure from this earth was dignified, did not document her wishes for her own care when she was able to make decisions. This oversight left her children in turmoil and divided, and their relationship is now very strained.

The Stark Reality of Dementia

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, a new case of dementia arises every three seconds, impacting over 55 million people globally as of 2020. These numbers are projected to soar in the coming decades. This number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050.

As estate planning attorneys, we see the ripple effects of dementia not just on the individuals afflicted but on their entire families. It’s not just about legalities; it’s about preserving family harmony and honoring wishes.

The Role of Dementia Medical Directives

Here’s where a vital but often overlooked tool comes in – the dementia medical directive. This document allows you to articulate your preferences for care if you were to face dementia-related challenges. It’s a roadmap for your loved ones, reducing uncertainties and potential conflicts.

So what?

It is not too early to think about these directives. It’s about protecting your family from the added stress of guessing your wishes and possibly facing tough decisions under emotional duress.

Don’t let dementia dictate your family’s journey. Take the helm by preparing your medical directives now. Unsure where to start? Reach out to an estate planning attorney. Let’s ensure that your wishes are known and your family’s bond remains strong, even in the face of life’s most challenging moments.

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