Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease raises many questions. What types of treatment and care are best? How do you deal with constant worry over what will happen next? How can you take care of your loved one who has Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s while taking care of yourself? Can your loved one remain at home, and if not, where will he or she get care? And, the ever present question: if your loved one eventually needs care at a nursing home, how can you pay for it without going broke?
There are a number of planning steps, strategies, documents, and key concerns your elder law attorney may consider for you or your loved one who has Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. As you travel this path, keep in mind that Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s affect people in different ways; everyone’s situation is unique, and no “one size fits all” approach applies.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Many uncertainties surround the diagnosis of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Both diseases are chronic (meaning they persist over a long period of time) and progressive (meaning their symptoms grow worse over time). However, not everyone experiences the same symptoms or progresses at the same rate. For example, not all Parkinson’s patients eventually experience dementia, although it sometimes happens in later stages.
For people worried about memory loss, declining physical abilities, and/or behavior changes, consulting with a doctor for an early diagnosis has many advantages, including the following:
- More time to make choices that provide quality of life;
- Less anxiety about suspected but unconfirmed disability;
- Narrowing the diagnosis and having a better chance to benefit from treatment; and
- More time and ability to plan for the future.
After diagnosis, treatment depends on your doctor’s recommendations. But just as importantly, you should seek out information, understanding, and guidance from others who have travelled this path before you, and who daily live with or assist those with these diseases. Becoming involved with support groups and resources offered through the local chapters for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease can be an important lifeline as the disease progresses over time.
Prompt Planning for Legal and Financial Concerns
By acting in the early phases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, patients can ensure that their wishes concerning financial and health care matters are known and followed when they can no longer speak or make their own decisions. Because the progression of both diseases is unpredictable, proper legal documents should be put in place as soon as possible. Having proper legal planning and documents allows more flexibility, better equipping patients and their families to deal with whatever legal, medical, or financial problems happen later.