Back in 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
At the time, fewer than two million Americans were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million, according to The Alzheimer’s Association.
Most of us have been exposed to the ravages of this horrid disease through our friends, families and loved ones.
While much research is being done to help those with Alzheimer’s disease, what should you be doing today?
First, make sure you have an updated health-care power of attorney that covers not only so-called terminal illnesses but also covers who can act on your behalf for all medical issues if you are unable to do so. This is not some simple form you download from the internet but should be drafted very carefully by an attorney familiar with elder law issues.
Second, make sure you have a current durable power of attorney that covers not only simple financial matters like checking accounts but also complicated rules regarding retirement accounts, trusts, beneficiaries, gifting, look-back periods, and annuities.
In addition to the legal contents of these documents, you must carefully consider who to name as your agents. Can you trust them with money, and do they have good judgment?
Will the agent carry out your wishes or their own wishes? Will the agent be able to stand up for you and be a true advocate in terms of medical care, nursing home care, and other family members? Will the agent “boss you around?’’
You also want to choose an understanding and experience family physician to help guide you and your loved ones through the maze of medical decisions.