Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease affects more than five million Americans today. While a large majority of those affected are over the age of 65, it is not just a disease for the elderly. Symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can occur in individuals as young as 30 years old, and currently affects an estimated 200,000 people in America. The diagnosis can often be missed or misdiagnosed as another condition or an association with the changes both men and women go through during their 40s and 50s, however, a comprehensive medical examination is required in order to properly diagnose those with early onset dementia. While the cause of the disease is not yet known, it is important to look to your family history as a way to determine if you or your loved one should be monitoring specific behaviors and changes in personality.
The thought of losing your memories, ability to perform basic tasks, as well as ability to think clearly, remember the time, date, or place, is a very scary feeling for anyone. As these functions start to go, it is important that the loved person, either elderly or young, has in place a comprehensive medical and estate plan, when the day comes that he or she is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. The unfortunate reality of this disease is that it is not a question or if, but of when they will no longer be able to make their own decisions based on a lack of capacity.
First, the individual in question must have their legal capacity assessed to determine if they are able to understand and appreciate the consequences of their actions in signing documents that give specific power to named individuals. In doing so, you should also consult a medical professional if you have doubt as to their ability to understand and make decisions. Also, if the individual has previously executed any wills, trust, or power of attorney documents, those should be revised as necessary to accommodate their current condition while still respecting their wishes.
Executing a living will, power of attorney for health care and for property, as well as an advance directive will allow the individual to control their care when they are not able to decide later on. While they may say they want one type of treatment or want a certain gift to go to a certain person, it may be the result of confusion or of outside influence by another person taking advantage of their inability to remember. These documents help to avoid disagreements between loved ones and caretakers, as well as take care of certain financial matters during emotional and stressful times.