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Alzheimers Walk to support patients, caregivers
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For many U.S. families, caring for aging parents goes beyond physical care.

A growing number are dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. About 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With the aging of the U.S. population, that number could triple by 2050.

To raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, the Alzheimer’s Association will hold a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Savannah on Oct. 27. In lieu of a registration fee, participants are encouraged to raise funds, which will help not only to fund the cause but also to raise awareness in the community about the devastating effects of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is not just memory loss. It destroys brain cells and causes erratic behaviors and loss of body functions. It slowly erodes a person’s identity, ability to connect with others, think, eat, talk and walk. Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 68 seconds. The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the country and the only one in the top 10 deadliest that is increasing.
At the Walk, participants can learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and the support programs and services offered by the Georgia chapter.

Part of the funds raised by the Georgia chapter will assist the caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient can be draining emotionally as well as financially. Often the family members act as the caregiver and, typically, pay for the care out of their own pockets.

But, some may qualify for help through the VA pension benefit, which can cover unpaid medical care, as well as payment to the one caring for the parent.

In 2011, 15.2 million people fell into the role of unpaid caregiver for those living with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. These friends and family members provided about 17.4 billion hours of unpaid care valued at about $210 billion.

Having dementia or Alzheimer’s can lengthen the process for receiving any retroactive VA pension benefits due. Because the beneficiary is incompetent to handle his or her own finances, the VA must appoint a fiduciary, or someone who is trusted to take care of money for another person and to act at all times for the sole benefit of that person.

The fiduciary can be a trusted family member. But the VA will want a field agent to interview the prospective fiduciary first and conduct a credit check and criminal background check. The fiduciary process can take several months, but consulting with a knowledgeable VA pension planning attorney can help expedite the overall process. This is important, because while ongoing monthly payments will be received the VA will hold retroactive payments until a fiduciary is named.

Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act in January 2011 with a goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. The Obama Administration included $26 million in the proposed 2013 budget to help fight Alzheimer’s. That money will go to education, outreach and support for families affected by the disease. Also, $50 million will be available for cutting-edge Alzheimer’s research.

If you would like to be a part of President Obama’s initiative, please attend the Walk. Together we can help the next generation rid itself of this devastating disease.

For more information about the Walk, visit For more information about the VA Pension Benefit, consult with a trusted long-term care planning attorney.

Michael Smith and Richard Barid are co-founders of Savannah-based Smith Barid LLC, which specializes in elder law, estate planning and special needs planning. They can be reached at 912-352-3999 or or

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