In the time it took you to pick up this newspaper, turn to this page and read this headline someone — maybe someone you know — developed Alzheimer’s.
The disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country and the only one in the top 10 deadliest that is increasing. About 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With the aging of the U.S. population, that number could nearly 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 on Sept. 28 in Savannah. In lieu of a registration fee, participants are encouraged to raise funds, which not only will help 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.
While many elderly people are concerned about planning for what will happen after their deaths, few plan for what will happen if they are incapacitated from a disease such as Alzheimer’s.
But the chances of developing a debilitating disease are higher than you might think. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
You can put a plan in place now that will ensure that your wishes are carried out if this happens to you. You will want to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney about your particular situation, but three things they probably will suggest are an advance medical directive, a durable power of attorney and a revocable living trust.
Advance directives are documents written in advance of serious illness that name someone to make choices about your medical treatment and state your preferences in regard to end-of-life medical treatment, organ donation and final disposition of your body. A durable power of attorney allows someone that you’ve designated to make financial decisions on your behalf. Although better than no incapacity planning at all, a revocable living trust provides a stronger, more reliable and seamless transition of power over your assets to the person you choose in the event of your incapacity.
A revocable living trust is a very flexible estate-planning strategy that serves, in many ways, as a will substitute. Without one, you are leaving your loved ones open to the likelihood that, if you become incapacitated, they will have to go to probate court just to get authority to use your assets to take care of you. With a living trust, you are assured that the right person, with your best interests at heart, has the proper authority over your assets and can use them to take care of you and your family.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. President Obama in January 2011 signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act with a goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. The Obama Administration included $100 million in the proposed 2014 budget to help fight Alzheimer’s. That money will go to education, outreach and support for families affected by the disease as well as cutting-edge Alzheimer’s research.
If you’d like to support this cause, you can join our team by visiting Team Smith Barid’s Walk Page at act.alz.org.
For more information about advance directives, durable powers of attorney and revocable living trusts, consult with a trusted long-term care planning attorney.
Barid of Richmond Hill and Smith are co-founders of Savannah-based Smith Barid LLC, which specializes in elder law, estate planning and special-needs planning. Call 912-352-3999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.