So, what steps should you take when your loved one is developing memory problems? Who do you turn to?
Courtney Martin, life enrichment director of programs at Masonic Homes of Louisville, offers professional advice on steps to take to effectively maneuver one of life’s toughest tasks.
1. Establish a physician.
“First and foremost, make an appointment with a physician who specializes in Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” she states. During the initial appointments, your loved one will need a diagnostic workup that includes a clinical exam, medical history, an assessment of multiple cognitive domains, lab tests, and if necessary, a scan of the brain such as an MRI or CT scan.
“The physician will also help you navigate the different choices you will have to make concerning therapies and medications. Clinical trials are an effective way to receive expert care, often free of cost while participating in important medical research. These trials grant your loved one access to potential treatments before they are widely available,” Courtney says.
Once a physician is established, Courtney recommends that the family get connected with a local support group such as the one offered at Masonic Homes. The group meets every third Tuesday at 6:30pm in the Olmsted Bistro, and can be a great support system and source of education for the family. Some other helpful support groups include the Clarity Pointe Louisville group which meets the third Friday of every month at 11:30am. Contact (502) 337.3088. Or you can go to the Jewish Family and Career Services support group which meets on the second Friday of each month at 2pm. Contact (502) 452.6341 ext. 103.
2. Determine the immediate safety of your loved one.
“After the diagnosis, you must now explore the immediate safety of your loved one in his present environment,” Courtney states.
Important questions to consider are:
Can he still drive safely? Are his surroundings safe? Is there a firearm in the home? Can he care for himself?
“If your loved one is in the mid to late stages of dementia, it is time to start exploring outside help,” she adds.
3. Meet with an attorney.
Courtney suggests hiring an attorney who specializes in elder care to get all legal and financial affairs in order. With the help of the attorney, begin working on the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit, which Courtney states can be a very lengthy process.
4. Become a co-signer or co-owner on all financial accounts.
Courtney adds that many banks and financial institutions will no longer recognize a Power of Attorney, so completing the necessary steps to become a co-signer or co-owner on all financial accounts is imperative.
“Also, don’t try to hide money,” she states. “If you apply for Medicaid help later on down the road, they will research five years of financial records to determine your eligibility.”
5. Talk to your loved one about their future care.
“At some point you will not be able to do this alone,” Courtney states. “In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, a patient must be supervised closely 24/7.