Over Thanksgiving in the month of November, Americans of all ages gather to celebrate family, togetherness and happy memories.
While there is much to be grateful about, holidays can be especially difficult for those whose minds are fading faster than they should or for those families and caregivers providing daily care to loved ones who have lost independence due to Alzheimer’s disease.
The month of November is also National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.
Americans aged 65 and older are the fastest-growing population in the country. Because of the increasing number of senior Americans, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is projected to soar. The disease not only physically taxes caregivers, but also poses significant financial health care costs to the nation.
According to the National Alzheimer’s Association:
- One in 10 people, aged 65 and older, has Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
- Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the nation, outranking breast and prostate cancers.
- Every 66 seconds, one more American develops the disease; by 2050, that statistic will change to every 33 seconds.
- Annually, more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementias.
- In 2016, caregivers provided roughly 18.2 billion hours of care, valued at over $230 billion, to Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.
- In 2017, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $259 billion. By the year 2050, these costs are estimated to rise to $1.1 trillion.
As you and so many Americans join hands around the table this year at Thanksgiving, celebrate your memories with loved ones, cherish your shared presence together, and look for any early signs of Alzheimer’s. These early signs can include memory loss, confusion with time or place, or difficulty completing familiar tasks.
If you notice a loved one is showing early symptoms of the disease, ensure that he or she has taken action to proactively protect all legal and health care needs.
Serving families affected by Alzheimer’s is a large aspect of what elder law attorneys do. With enough time to pre-plan, many elder law attorneys can assist families with planning documents, protect assets for a spouse without Alzheimer’s, assist in obtaining veterans benefits and other assistance, or navigate the options for placement in care facilities.
Without proactive legal planning, if a loved one’s condition progresses to the point where they are no longer able to make decisions for their care or manage their affairs, often the only remaining option is an expensive and public guardianship proceeding.
The best way to prevent Alzheimer’s from becoming a greater burden on families is to proactively plan for a loved one’s legal and health care needs. Consult an elder law attorney about available options for your loved one’s specific needs.
Kara Gansmann is an attorney in the Wilmington office of Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, where her practice encompasses elder law and estate planning. Kara advises individuals and families with estate planning needs and asset protection tactics. In this role, she strategizes with clients to preserve assets for long-term care and to leave legacy gifts to family members. Kara works with elderly clients in need of Medicaid crisis planning and Medicaid applications. As part of her practice, Kara drafts wills, trusts and powers of attorney. In the courtroom, Kara represents clients in the administration of estates, guardianship/incompetency proceedings, and guardianship administration. Kara also litigates estate and trust matters, including will caveats, the modification or termination of trusts, and litigation arising from estate documents or fiduciary roles. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association Elder Law and Special Needs Section and serves as co-chair of the CLE Committee for that section. Kara also serves as a liaison between the North Carolina Bar Association Elder Law and Special Needs Section and the North Carolina Bar Association Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section.