As we age, a number of diseases and factors may affect our physical and mental well-being. Those diseases include: cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and muscular dysfunctions. However, another type of disease which is becoming very prominent is diminished mental capacity. Diminished mental capacity of an individual may have many causes. One type of diminished mental capacity is often referred to as dementia. In order for a medical doctor to make a diagnosis of dementia, he or she looks to see whether or not a certain set of symptoms are present. Those symptoms include: (1) memory loss; (2) difficulty performing familiar tasks; (3) problems with language; (4) disorientation to time and place; (5) poor or decreased judgment; (6) problems with abstract thinking; (7) misplacing things; (8) changes in mood or behavior; (9) changes in personality; and (10) loss of initiative.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia. In addition, there can be temporary dementia which may be caused by substance abuse or a urinary tract infection, however that is less common. Also, there can be post-surgical induced dementia. Normally dementia is a permanent, progressive, and irreversible condition.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and present in 70% of most dementia cases. Alzheimer’s Disease usually consists of three stages: (1) mild or early stage; (2) moderate; and (3) severe or late stage. As Alzheimer’s progresses, symptoms become more obvious. During the mild stage, you may notice that a person is undergoing changes in personality and experiencing memory loss. It is normally during this mild stage that you will become concerned with a loved one’s behavior and question whether or not the problems are beginning to interfere with the individual’s day-to-day functioning. The following are some communication skills which may assist you when communicating with an individual who has Alzheimer’s: (1) use familiar words and short, simple sentences when communicating; (2) look directly at the person when talking to him or her; (3) maintain good eye contact; (4) speak slowly; (5) be patient, give the person time to respond; (6) ask simple questions; (7) give simple directions; (8) repeat the question exactly the same way; (9) do not argue, confront or correct the individual with Alzheimer’s; (10) limit distractions; (11) don’t test the person’s memory by saying “Don’t you remember?”; (12) be specific; and (13) lastly try again later if the person is not able to communicate.
If you become aware of these warning signs in a loved one, it is prudent that you make sure that the individual’s estate planning documents have been executed and are up to date. These documents should include: (1) a Last Will and Testament, (2) a Revocable Trust, (3) a Power of Attorney for Property; and (4) a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. If those documents are not in place, please make sure that your loved one contacts his or her attorney to make sure these documents are executed. All of these estate planning documents will allow the family members to handle various situations if they occur later on as the Alzheimer’s Disease progresses. If an individual does not have those various documents in place before the individual loses their capacity to execute these documents, you may be forced to obtain a guardianship over your loved one in order to make various personal and financial decisions for them. Be proactive and not reactive to these types of situations.
A significant portion of the information in the article was provided by the Greater East Ohio Area Alzheimer’s Association located at 408 Ninth Street, SW, Canton, Ohio 44707, phone number is 330-966-7343. Please utilize the services of this organization if faced with these issues with a loved one.
NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.