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By: Tammy Zilske, Long-Term Care Planner, Certified Medicaid Planner™

“I’m going to burn down this house” my grandmother screamed at 1:00 a.m. after getting up for the third time that night.

Providing a week of much needed respite for my parents, my aunt and uncle were terrified, exhausted, and unprepared for how to help my grandmother. After years of caring for my grandmother, my step-grandfather brought her to Pennsylvania from Florida. In deteriorating health, he finally admitted he could no longer do the job. My family, as many families are when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, was suddenly faced with a variety of challenges and unknowns.

Personality changes, anger, and aggression are all typical for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia can be very challenging and should not be underestimated. A caregiver can be equipped but must take some important steps.

Schedule a thorough medical exam: you can start with your family medical doctor and get additional professional evaluations once all other diagnoses are ruled out. Proper treatment and diagnosis will allow you to know what you are facing and the available medical interventions.

Educate yourself: once a diagnosis has been made, a good starting place is the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900 or online at www.alz.org. You will learn about the stages of the disease, caregiver supports, caregiving tips, as well as research in development and treatments.

Get your estate planning in order: as the disease advances, it is important to have qualified decision makers for financial, health care, and mental health. Powers of attorney are a legal way to appoint an agent to make these decisions.
Even if you already have existing powers of attorney, they may not provide your agent with all of the powers needed to protect your real estate and investments and make mental health treatment decisions. Don’t delay, if the diagnosis is too advanced, you may need to seek court approval for legal work, which can be time consuming and costly.

Develop a plan on how you will pay for care: our experienced attorneys and Certified Medicaid Planners™ can help you develop a legal and financial plan to ensure that needs are met throughout the disease process and you are not caught off guard by the cost of care.

Get help from outside sources: Steinbacher, Goodall and Yurchak has a resource center with information on agencies that provide in-home care services, adult day and LIFE programs, assistance in living, and skilled nursing homes. These support services are essential in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

Have meaningful activities and routines: we are conditioned to be productive members of society. A daily routine with meaningful tasks can help fill the day and lessen agitation and aggression. These could include folding towels, sorting coins, organizing fabric swabs, simple exercises, simple crafts, or music therapy.

Join support groups: a support system is essential whether you are caring for your loved one at home or in a facility. There are many support groups in your community as well as on-line groups. Our resource center can provide information on support groups in your community.

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it can seem overwhelming. You are not alone. Our experienced staff will partner with you to help with each stage of the disease. Being unprepared can leave you without the right decision makers and cost you your life savings, which is all avoidable. Our consultation is FREE and our staff is ready to help you.

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