I Have Alzheimer's

I have Alzheimer’s-Now What?

We know there is life and life abundant after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.  People learn to live with the disease and often tell us they “take one day at a time.” Almost everyone tells us they have many good days and they continue to enjoy the activities they have participated in throughout their life with family and friends.  Many people can identify areas where they have grown as a result of this disease.   

It is important now to “Plan for Your Future.”  This allows you and your family some control over the future.  There are discussions that need to take place and decisions that need to be made in the immediate future.  The future will be much easier if you have done your homework.

 The Big Question: When to Stop Driving

Everyone wants to maintain their ability to drive as long as possible.  With the privilege to drive comes responsibility. We encourage you to discuss driving with your family and your physician on a regular basis.  Planning for this event can help ease this life transition.  Each individual with Alzheimer’s disease is encouraged to read a book published by The Hartford insurance company entitled At the Crossroads: A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia & Driving.   This is a resource to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families objectively determine when it is time to stop driving. 

Additional resources include  the AARP’s Policy Institute released a study of 65+ year old commuters and the impact of extended years of employment among Americans on transportation and community planning:  “Work-Related Travel in an Era of Extended Employment”

The Emory Center for Health in Aging has initiatives  that address the issue of transportation, safe driving, and mobility options – especially for those of us who are no longer driving or are thinking of retiring from driving. Check out more information on our own initiatives here.

Please also visit our partners at the Georgia Older Driver’s Task Force for more information on statewide initiatives.

If you are concerned about someone’s ability to drive safely, you may consider completing a Request for Driver Evaluation, developed by the GA Older Driver’s Task Force and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Additional Resources for driver’s education, training, and alternative transportation services:

For Health Professionals:

Medication Management

We strongly encourage people with mild cognitive impairment, early Alzheimer’s disease or other neurodegenerative disease to set up a systematic way to manage their medication.  In addition we strongly suggest that another family member review the medication system and provide ongoing supervision.  From working with many people with early memory problems we have learned that it is very easy to have problems with medication management. Developing a medication management system before you are actually having difficulty with medications is very important. 

Advanced Directives

In 2007 Georgia adopted a new “Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care”.

The Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care is a legal document in which you name another person as your agent to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself.  In this document you can describe treatment you want and do not want. You may choose to consult with an attorney who will execute an individualized Advance Directive for Health Care. 

The Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care now includes the directives formally designated as a “living will”. You can provide direction related to your wishes should you have a terminal condition.  You can specify your preferences related to food and hydration should your have a terminal or irreversible condition.

A copy of the “Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care” is available here.

Advanced Financial Planning and Wills

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia in a family member immediately invokes feelings of fear, panic, and stress into the family unit.  The practical matter of financial planning often gets pushed aside as the family attempts to cope. Topics such as a durable power of attorney, living trusts, and a healthcare proxy are far from the everyday dialogue of families dealing with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The Private Banking and Investment Group of Merrill Lynch has created webpages, a video and white paper that provide a great overview of the financial and emotional issues that arise with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Below is the link to these valuable resources:

Elder Law Attorneys

Elder law has become a practice specialty as our population ages.  Elder lawyers are attorneys who have developed expertise in areas of the law important to older people.  Typically they have expertise is areas such as estate and disability planning, trusts, advanced directives for health care, durable power of attorney for finances, living wills, guardianship, financing long term care, Medicare, Medicaid and SSI.   Within the practice of elder law there is even further specialization.  Some elder lawyers specialize in long term care financing, while others do not.  Your local bar association may be able to provide additional resources. 

To begin the process of finding an elder law attorney visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.