Dementia is a devastating disease. Few things are more heart wrenching that watching a loved one slowly fade away. Even under the best of circumstances with sufficient financial resources and excellent care, dementia is nearly impossible to manage very well.
The financial challenges alone can be overwhelming. In many instances, family members will serve as unpaid caregivers – working on average nearly 22 hours per week in addition to their own career and family responsibilities. Yet the economic impact often pales in comparison to the emotional toll. This can include not only the stress from being a caregiver, but also the struggle to best help the situation while your loved one slowly declines.
Until a parent is diagnosed with dementia, rarely do children have to work together on a common project over an extended period of time. This is especially true in matters filled with such emotion which is particularly impacted by each child’s unique relationship with their parent. Even the most stable and supportive families can break down in the face of dementia. Fortunately, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article (“Dementia’s Tragic Toll on Families”), children can take certain steps to significantly improve the well-being of their family and individual caregivers.
- Know what you’re dealing with. It’s important at the outset to know the diagnosis and any associated conditions. This will ordinarily require an assessment by an expert such as a gerontologist and regular monitoring. This can help everyone to have a clear understanding of what is going on and what to expect.
- Family meeting. Once a loved one’s condition has been diagnosed, it is advisable to have a family meeting to establish goals and responsibilities. For example, what type of care is needed for the loved one and where will it be provided? Who will provide the care and what can the loved one afford? While the care plan will likely need to change over time, having an initial plan is crucial.
- Know who’s in charge. Doctor visits, medication management, paying bills, personal hygiene, meals, etc., are just a few of the daily needs of a loved one suffering from dementia. Assigning a point person for coordinating daily care and decision making can be extremely helpful in addressing these issues.
Caregiving can be a long journey – often lasting 8 to 10 years or more. Strategically addressing it early on is by far the best approach. For your loved and your peace of mind, be sure to seek advice from an experience elder law attorney.