Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2019, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and every 65 seconds someone in the US develops the disease. Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $290 billion in 2019. Although the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 or older, approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, but unlike other dementias, wherein symptoms gradually worsen over time, it is a progressive disease and those with Alzheimer’s live only an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others. Early symptoms most often manifest as mild memory loss of newly learned information and as the disease becomes more severe, individuals experience the inability to respond to their environment, display confusion about events, time and place, experience mood and behavior changes, develop suspicions about friends, loved-ones and care-givers, and can have difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
The Alzheimer’s Association publicizes 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease on the aforementioned website, as well as the differences between Alzheimer’s and other typical age-related changes. In their article entitled “What is Alzheimer’s?” (alz.org/alzheimers_disease), the Alzheimer’s Association explains that Alzheimer’s changes begin in the part of the brain that affects learning and is caused by two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles which damage and kill nerve cells. Plaques are deposits of a protein called beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells and tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau that builds up inside cells. Studies show that most people develop some plaques and tangles as they age, however, those with Alzheimer’s tend to develop more, beginning in the areas important for memory and spreading to other regions of the brain. The damage and death of the nerve calls cause memory failure, personality changes, problems associated with daily living skills and other symptoms.
If a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the most critical steps to take is to contact an elder care attorney to develop a care and financial plan. There are several essential documents necessary to protect an individual once they have become incapacitated, but these must be implemented while he/she still has capacity. The level of capacity a person must have to sign estate planning documents is entitled “testamentary capacity”, in that he/she must understand what he or she is signing and the implications of what is being signed. As long as an individual has periods of lucidity, he or she may still be competent to sign planning documents.
We recommend that all individuals in their late fifties to early sixties begin the process to secure the completion of these documents and ensure that trusted family and/or trusted friends are aware of their location. These include: Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will, Last Will and Testament, and possibly an asset preservation trust. It is also important to create a plan for long-term care. An elder care attorney should be consulted for assistance in developing an appropriate plan and for drafting the aforementioned documents.
Researchers are working to uncover more information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In the last 20 years alone, 90% of what we know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered. Currently new treatments and approaches are being investigated all around the world. Donations, corporate sponsorships and Walks to End Alzheimer’s make a tremendous difference in advancing care, support and research worldwide. “Every dollar raised helps to strengthen the efforts and move us closer to a world without Alzheimer’s Disease” (www.alz.org).
For almost 20 years, Ronald Fatoullah served on the Legal Committee of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Association and since 2014, has also served as the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Long Island Chapter. Ronald Fatoullah & Associates applauds the caregivers and loved ones of the millions of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This disease either already has or will touch each one of us during our lifetime; therefore. raising awareness and assisting in the annual campaigns for funding to support the efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association is a way we can all get involved and make a difference.
Walks To End Alzheimer’s were held in Long Island and the boroughs of NYC over the summer and during September. The New York City Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place on Saturday, October 26, 2019. If you are interested in participating you can find more information at www.act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2019/NY-NewYorkCity. Create your own team or donate to the cause. Donations for all the Walks to End Alzheimer’s for 2019 are open through December 31, 2019. In addition, round-the clock Alzheimer’s Disease information and support is always available 24/7 at the Alzheimer’s Disease Helpline 800-272-3900.
Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. is the founding attorney of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm that concentrates in elder law, estate planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, estate administration, trusts, wills, and real estate. The law firm can be reached at 718-261-1700, or toll free at 1-877-ELDER-LAW or 1-877-ESTATES. Mr. Fatoullah is also a partner-advisor with Advice Period, a wealth management firm, and he can be reached at 424-256-7273.