President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million. That number is expected to increase to 7.1 million Americans by 2025. More than 70 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease live at home. Almost 75 percent of the home care is provided by families and friends. For every person with the diagnosis, the lives of at least other three people have been changed forever. Family and caregivers take on extraordinary financial, emotional and physical responsibilities to support their loved one, including walking a tightrope in deciding when to shift the maintenance of their financial affairs to a trusted family member.
Let me tell you about my friend Sandy – she loves road trips and strawberry shakes. Unfortunately, she can’t go anywhere anymore, and she can only get through about half of a kid-sized shake these days. Sandy suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Sandy has been a client for a long time. So was her long-time friend Rose*. They both lived in a retirement community on the other side of town. I remember how hard it was on Sandy when Rose succumbed to dementia. Rose couldn’t remember me, and even sadder, she couldn’t remember Sandy. It was so fast. Within months, Rose’s family had swooped in, packed everything up, and moved Rose to the Midwest to live with her daughter. Sandy felt isolated, but she managed. Sandy’s story took a little longer than Rose’s.
I remember the first odd phone call from Sandy. She was having a hard time remembering something we had talked about before and she became very angry with me. I was able to smooth it over, but I was starting to worry about her. Those phone calls became more frequent. Sometimes she would tell me how she felt like her daughters were “out to get her” yet, they were the ones trying to help. I still cringe when I think about the door-to-door crook that fooled her out of a couple thousand dollars.
How Trusts Help Family Members
Finally, there came the time when Sandy realized her daughters were right. She agreed to move to an assisted living facility. Before she became totally incapacitated (unable to make sound legal decisions that are in her own best interests), we were able to get her to sign documents allowing her oldest daughter to manage her financial affairs and manage her trust. Her daughter was then able to arrange Sandy’s affairs – sold her mobile home, gathered up her belongings, arranged her financial accounts – all so that Sandy would be well cared for in her new assisted living facility.
It wasn’t long after that that Sandy became totally incapacitated. Now when I visit her, she smiles and sometimes remembers my name. She can’t remember if her daughter has called that day (even though she calls every day). It’s sad to see, but she’s comfortable where she is, and she still loves the taste of those shakes!
As we enter into November – Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – I am reminded of friends like Sandy and Rose. While there is much work to be done in finding ways to slow the spread of dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is much that each of us can do to prepare our own families for cases of such tragic and all-too-often circumstances. If you find yourself or a family member in a similar situation and have any questions, please feel free to call me to discuss during a free consultation. We will be donating a percentage of any legal trust work done this month to our local ALS Association Arizona Chapter. Learn more on their website at www.alsaz.org/.
*Names changed from their original to protect privacy