by Jane M. McNamara, Elder Law Attorney
Dementia in the elderly population is an epidemic. Dementia is not actually a specified disease. Rather, dementia describes a progressive decline in memory and thinking skills, and is identified through a variety of symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging.
In order to be characterized as dementia, at least two of the following mental functions must be significantly impaired: 1) perception; 2) reasoning and judgment; 3) memory; 4) communication
and language; and/or 5) ability to focus and pay attention.
Dementia will, over time, rob your loved one of their memories, of their reasoning skills, their ability to communicate, and of their personality. It will turn its victim into someone they are not, and make the victim completely dependent on others. As dementia slowly destroys the brain, it can cause paranoia, combativeness, anger, confusion, and severe agitation. Care outside the home is often required as the disease reaches its later stages, and care costs are staggering - often exceeding $100,000.00 per year. These care costs are not covered by insurance. MediCal and/or VA benefits are typically needed to help pay for this expensive care.
Planning must occur while the dementia is in its early stages. Legal documents should be updated, assets should be protected from State recovery, and options for long-term care explored. VA benefits for should be considered when care costs exceed income, as this significant monthly tax-free cash benefit can be available for both the veteran and the surviving spouse.
Unfortunately, without proper planning, conservatorships are required through the court system, and planning opportunities may be lost. It is far better to plan when changes in memory and behavior first begin. Waiting too long can mean the inability to protect assets, or to avoid costly court involvement. It is important to have the existing legal documents reviewed by an Elder Law attorney to ensure they include beneficial language regarding long-term care, asset protection, and incapacity issues. Many individuals lose their homes to Medi-Cal recovery, as they did not properly plan before capacity was lost. Advice by Elder Law attorneys often prove invaluable to the families, and to the victims of dementia.
For more information, please contact the McNamara Law Firm, PC at (661) 287-3260, or visit www.McNamaraLawFirm.com.