Millions of people are currently providing unpaid care to loved ones with Alzheimer’s – and they pay a price for providing that care. Studies tell us that unpaid caregivers for those who have Alzheimer’s or other dementia are more likely to have higher levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, new hypertension, and new heart disease than non-caregivers. The Nashua elder law attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices discuss what you need to know if you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Most people associate Alzheimer’s disease with dementia and the loss of memory. While those are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, the disease is considerably more complicated than that. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, deterioration of thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex. Unlike many other diseases, such as AIDS, experts do not believe Alzheimer’s has a single cause. Instead, they believe the disease is multi-faceted with a number of factors influencing the development of the disease. Scientists are currently focusing on amyloid and tau proteins, whose malformation are classic characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease; however, other factors likely help determine who develops the disease, including vascular health, inflammation, lifestyle, and possibly even viral causes. To illustrate how prevalent Alzheimer’s has become in recent years, consider the following facts and figures:
- Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds.
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
- An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s.
Eighty-three percent of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends, or other unpaid caregivers. Nearly half of all caregivers who provide help to older adults do so for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. If you are among the more than 16 million people providing unpaid care to someone with Alzheimer’s, your selfless caregiving is likely taking its toll on you physically, mentally, and financially. Before you reach a point of complete burnout, do yourself and your loved one a favor and set limits. You will not be any good to anyone if you push yourself past those limits. Plan for time off as well. If possible, take at least one entire day each week off to recharge.
In addition, reach out for support and help. There are Alzheimer support groups in just about every community that can provide you with both practical resources and much needed emotional support. You should also reach out to other family members for help. Although they may not be able or willing to provide the level of care you are, they may be able to take over for a day, provide transportation, or even cook meals. You may also be able to turn to professional caregivers for assistance. Most Medicaid programs will cover in-home professional healthcare services for Alzheimer patients which can be an invaluable resource.
For those suffering from Alzheimer’s, the reality is that it is not a question of “if,” but of “when” long-term care will be needed. At some point it will no longer be safe for your loved one to remain in his/her home, or even in your home. Start looking into your options for LTC early on so when the time comes you have a plan in place.
Contact Nashua Elder Law Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact the Woburn estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling our New Hampshire office at (603) 894-4141 or our Massachusetts office (978) 969-0331 to learn more or visit our website at http://dadlawoffices.com .
There sooner the better if you want to ensure eligibility for Medicaid when it is needed. Ideally, it should be incorporated into a plan at least 5 years prior to the need to qualify.
Eligibility for Medicaid is based, in part, on an applicant’s “countable resources.” Medicaid “looks back” at your finances for the five year period prior to your application to make sure you did not transfer valuable assets in anticipation of applying.
Start searching as soon as the need for LTC may be a reality. One tool you can use to find licensed facilities is the Medicare Compare search engine.