I think I am exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, what can I do for my children?
Having been medic in the Air Force; I think I am exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's/Dementia. As primary care-giver for my Mother for 5 yrs.; I don't want my children to be burdened with that responsibility. What should I do for them and myself?
Dear AF Medic:
Thank you for your service. I'm sorry to hear of your situation.
You email does not indicate if you are retired military, or your age. Are you on a Military Pension or do you have Medicare? Those answers may open up several doors to you.
It sounds as if you have self-diagnosed your illness, which is rarely a good idea. However, going back to square one, here's what I would do, and the order in which I would do it:
If you can afford it, and have not received a formal medical diagnosis of dementia or other major disease or illness, apply for Long Term Care insurance. If you have no diagnosis of a problem that would rule you out, and don't offer the insurer a self-diagnosis that might raise a red flag, you may be eligible for insurance that down the road may be the best solution to your potential care problem.
If you are eligible, qualify and purchase LTC insurance, your next step is to get a formal diagnosis from a qualified neurologist to determine what you are actually dealing with regarding your cognitive symptoms. Actually, if LTC is out of your reach financially or because of an existing, confirmed diagnosis, getting the diagnosis remains the next step you must take.
Once you have a confirmed diagnosis, regardless of what the problem is identified as, you should check out the Veterans Administration to see what services and programs, such as Veterans Aid & Assistance, might be available to you.
If the diagnosis is a cognitive disease, contact the Alzheimer's Association. Ask them for counsel on how to plan and prepare for the future as you would like to see it unfold relative to your care. They may suggest working with an elder law attorney to plan for your own future care.
If you can't get an LTC policy, and anticipate that you will not be financially able to pay for care, an elder law attorney may also work with you to do some advance planning to become Medicaid eligible on one of several programs "“ i.e. Medicaid Diversion, Medicaid Waiver or Medicaid placement in a skilled facility that cares for patients with cognitive diseases when the time is appropriate for those to occur.
What I haven't mentioned yet is the concern you stated about becoming a burden to your children. Your experience with your own mother certainly has you aware of the demands on caregivers.
However, your children may wish to step in and help you for all the right reasons. They may want to be a major part of your life and your care for as long as they can reasonably do so. I suggest that you allow them to be part of your planning because if you do have a medical problem it will ultimately involve them. It's better to make the family part of your decision-making early in the process.
You may then still go forward with your investigation of long term care insurance coverage, followed by seeing a neurologist for a confirmed diagnosis and checking local and Veteran's benefits available to you. If you do receive a diagnosis of dementia, your LTC insurance will be in place. However, don't exclude your family as you begin your journey, regardless of the issues involved.
There are so many unknowns at this point making giving additional suggestions difficult.
For now, complete the suggestions noted above. Involve your family. Hold off making decisions and choices until those are completed. Once you have completed the first two steps, knowing your eligibility for LTC insurance protection and the nature of the problem, you'll all be better equipped to face issues and decisions regarding your future. Best of luck.
Since Ron overlooked your concern about your mother's continuing care, I will add: The elder care lawyer can also help you plan for the care of your elderly mother.
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