New Year’s resolutions are nothing new. Most of us grew up making New Year’s resolutions, from committing to the gym (ever try finding an open treadmill during the first two weeks of January?) to personal, work or financial goals.
For families and individuals facing an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in the early stages, no resolution could be more important than planning ahead.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease for which there is no known cure. In the late stages, people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia are unable to make sound financial and personal care decisions.
The most responsible thing that relatives, or in the absence of family close friends, can do is to work with their loved one to plan for a future they would want. A plan that allows them to retain their dignity, preserve assets, continue enjoying their hobbies and passions, while at the same time easing the burden on family caregivers who will be tasked with managing their care.
Here are some things that should be considered by people in the early stage of dementia and their loved ones:
Finances — Organize your documents, and take an inventory of all your assets and debts. Identify family members who should be included in your financial plans, including who will help with routine financial responsibilities like paying bills. Talk to a financial planner or CPA.
Living Arrangements — Consider the wishes of the person with Alzheimer’s. Identify the costs of care. Consider the costs you may incur now and in the future. Look into home safety modifications and make arrangements related to prescriptions, personal care items and in-home care options including Meals on Wheels and others.
Building a Care Team — Family, friends, neighbors, professionals and your community are all part of your care team. Start building your team by identifying a decision-maker you trust. Consider what help may be needed now, and in the future.
Consider a Clinical Trail — The Alzheimer’s Association’s TrialMatch connects individuals living with Alzheimer’s, caregivers and healthy volunteers with clinical trials that may advance Alzheimer’s research. TrialMatch allows users to search for studies without creating an account, choose whether to receive email notifications of new opportunities, and directly contact research teams.
Consult Your Doctor — Perhaps the most important resolution you can make, if you are noticing your cognitive abilities starting to fail, or those of a close friend or family member, is to talk to your primary care provider about testing for Alzheimer’s. Early diagnosis is key, allowing the most time for lifestyle enhancement techniques and financial decisions to preserve assets.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to make sound life-altering decisions. Plan ahead. The time is now.
For any questions or concerns about Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or go to alz.org.
Douglas Friedman is director of communications for the San Diego/Imperial chapter of the nationwide Alzheimer’s Association.