Facing the fact that practical matters must be discussed and taken care of is hard for the caregiver. I certainly didn’t want to heighten our awareness of what was happening. To continue day by day in our normal routine helped stifle the truth, but the future needed to be addressed. I had received a chart of the four stages of the disease from the Alzheimer’s Association. Dan was in the latter part of Stage One, beginning of Stage Two. An obvious fact deducible from the Stage Two list of symptoms was that soon Dan wouldn’t be able to understand legal and financial matters. Practical matters had to be taken care of while Dan could still sign his name and had enough cognition to knowingly assent to arrangements.
I was the one hesitant to broach the subject. When I did, Dan totally agreed. We consulted an accountant and a lawyer. I had a living will or health care directive, and Dan now made his. Dan’s assets were put into a trust in his name so that the income could be managed to support him. I very carefully went over and over each statement in the trust documents with Dan to be sure he understood. The lawyer did the same. We set up his trust so that when Dan’s pension was released in five years, it would go to the trust and I and my sons could manage the money. I was beneficiary so that if he died, I would still have income. Dan signed the necessary documents that gave me power of attorney. He never hesitated, was solidly agreeable. I was grateful.
Because Dan’s assets would be sufficient for his long term care, my assets, including the house which we transferred to my name, were put in my trust so that if I died first, my children could inherit my assets. I took other actions to ensure my financial power. My credit had always been tied to Dan’s. To establish my credit, a boat we purchased for Dan’s use was registered in my name as was the new car, and I applied for my own credit card. I transferred the electric and telephone accounts to my name.
We knew we were starting down a difficult road, and we were doing our best to eliminate those problems that we could anticipate. The rest we would have to deal with as they arose.
One action I regret not taking that first year was allowing Dan to attend a support group offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. Their Alzheimer’s patient support group allowed people with Alzheimer’s to meet together, talk about how they were coping, support each other and pass on information about resources. The nearest group to us, was in a city a hundred miles away. At the time, making a two hundred mile round trip and taking a whole day of time seemed burdensome to me, but other’s with Alzheimer’s would have known what Dan was experiencing. Sharing a problem with a fellow sufferer in any situation is a great help because those present have the same bewilderment, anger, and fear that you do. They understand. As a caregiver I learned this when I attended our local caregiver’s support group that was organized in the latter years of Dan’s life.
In addition to a lawyer and accountant, the Alzheimer’s Association is a useful resource. The National Alzheimer’s Association has chapters in every state and has centers and local chapters in regions across the states. These state and local chapters provide information, support, contacts and workshops, The National Alzheimer’s Association can direct you to a chapter in your state. 1-800-232-0851. The web site is http://www.alz.org.