It is always frightening when a family member is diagnosed with a cognitive disease like Alzheimer’s–the most common form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms develop slowly and worsen over time. The disease usually affects individuals 65 years old or older, but it is not only a concern of the elderly. Over five percent of Alzheimer’s patients develop symptoms in their 40’s and 50’s. Following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, a family will need to take medical, practical, and legal steps to help prepare for complications and aid in the fight against the disease. The progressive nature of Alzheimer’s makes it important to deal with its effects as early as possible before an individual’s capacity is lost.
A Huffington Post article this weekend discussed the single most important thing that friends and family can do to help loved ones suffering from the cognitive impairment–encourage them to keep doing what they already enjoy. Research has found that the most important way to slow the spread of mental deterioration is to exercise already developed brain skills as much as possible. For example, if someone is bilingual, they should practice and use those language skills each day as a form of brain exercise. No matter what the skills or interests of the individual, it is vital that they keep their mind occupied. A retired engineer should tinker with appliances and a former professor should continue writing down thoughts and research ideas. Interestingly, experts have found that these mental exercises are only helpful when they involve skills that the person already knows and has utilized in their lives. Attempting to learn another language after the onset of dementia has not been shown helpful.
Besides aiding a loved one’s fight against the spread of symptoms, following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis all area residents should also handle appropriate legal matters by visiting a New York elder law estate planning lawyer. These attorneys can help prepare documents like a Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney to ensure that important decisions can be made when mental capacity wanes. In addition, a lawyer can share strategies to provide for possible long-term care and protect current assets–often through the use of a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust.
There is no easy way to work through an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but resources are available to help. Many elder law attorneys have years of experience working directly with families to provide legal protection when one develops Alzheimer’s. Also, the Alzheimer’s Association is an important nationwide organization that works to spread information about the disease and provide support to families after a loved one is diagnosed.
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