Saturday, January 2, 2010

Home for the Holidays with Alzheimer's

Home for the Holidays with Alzheimer's! What kind of blog post is that!? If you visited your parents this holiday season and noticed that something wasn't quite right with your parents, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Our clients usually have very full lives, complete with spouses and children. Needless to say, their plate is full. Then one day when you come home to visit Mom or Dad, you notice that something is not right. Mom or Dad asks the same question about your youngest daughter 10 times in the space of an hour; or maybe they can’t remember your youngest daughter’s name; or maybe they don’t remember something that you did together 2 hours ago. You suspect the worst. You suspect Alzheimer’s.

Several thoughts may race through your mind. Is it really that bad, or was it just my imagination? Can Mom or Dad get by for a while longer without assistance? What type of assistance is available? Do they have enough money to pay for this? Do I have enough money to pay for this?? Do I need to quit my job and move back home? If you have other siblings, can they handle things? If your other parent is living, can they handle it?

Depending upon the severity of the experience, you may have had these and other thoughts race through your mind. Often it is not readily apparent what course of action needs to be taken. However, to get you started, here are three things that need to be done to best help Mom or Dad:

1. Help them get the best possible care. Of course, this is assuming that they actually need care. In fact you may have overreacted. However your gut feeling is a powerful thing so if you suspected something, it definitely pays to take immediate action. The first step is to get Mom or Dad evaluated by a Gerontologist, which is a doctor that specialized in problems associated with aging. There is probably one in your area. After an evaluation, they can determine what actions need to be taken. Sometimes, something as simple as change in medication may be what’s needed. In more severe cases, a stay in a geriatric-psychiatric (geri-psy) facility may be needed to optimize their medications and treatment regimen.

2. In the least restrictive environment. Obviously, the least restrictive environment is at home. If the Alzheimer’s is at an early stage, and their Gerontologist feels that, with proper medication, it would be safe for them to live at home for a while longer, then this should be considered. Another big factor is who is available to help. If your other (well) parent is still living, they will no doubt want to help and want to keep your parent with Alzheimer’s at home. Consider however, the physical, mental and emotional toll that this takes on the health of your well parent - it is often substantial. Do other siblings live close by that could help? If the situation is a little more severe, you may need to consider home health care, an Assisted Living Facility or a Skilled Care Nursing Home. Again, their Gerontologist should be able to make a proper recommendation.

3. Without going broke. All of this care is expensive. Medicare and their Medicare supplement, should pay for doctors, hospitals and up to 100 days in a skilled care nursing facility (see article on this blog about Medicare). After that it’s probably private pay (until they have spent a portion of their money), then Medicaid (see article on this blog about Medicaid).

Most people of this generation are very private regarding their finances – especially with their children. If the situation is severe, it is probably time to “meddle”. If you have siblings, then all of you may need to have the discussion with your parents together (see article on this blog about Saving the Farm). If the planning process is begun early enough, they can protect many of their assets. However, even in a crisis situation, where time is not on your side, an Elder Law attorney will be able to take many actions to preserve and protect many of their assets for their benefit.

There is no doubt that you love your parents and want the best for them. In a situation like we have discussed above, now is the time to enlist the help of professionals and take action immediately – your parents health depends on it.