I have worked in the area of elder law and estate planning for many years, but until the last 3 years, my perspective of having a parent with dementia was shaped only through clients’ stories. And then it hit home. Just before my father died, he and I were having a conversation about how we were going to take care of him once he came home from the hospital. He was quick to tell me he was not worried about himself but was concerned about my mother. He said “something isn’t right, she can’t cook things like she did before”. While that seems like a simple (and maybe silly) thing for him to say, it spoke volumes to me. My mom had always been a good cook. Sadly, my dad did not live very long after his discharge, and I had moved home to take care of him. Since I was now living with my mom, it didn’t take long for me to see that Daddy had been correct – something wasn’t right. After a visit to a neurologist and some follow up tests, we had the diagnosis of dementia, likely of the Alzheimer’s type. My sisters and I were devastated. And now, I have the first hand experience of watching my mother slip away from us piece by piece. My mother was always smart, witty, and kind. Every once in a while, she will say something funny and it catches me off guard. For a minute, I think “Mom’s back” but sadly, it’s just a glimpse of her old self. I hope that through this personal experience with my mom, I will be better able to help our clients. At least, I have now walked in those shoes.
I am thankful that my parents listened to me years ago when I asked them to get all of their estate planning documents in order, purchase long term care insurance, and pre-plan their funeral arrangements. Working in this area of law has taught me a lot.They did all of that and thus, have made the events of the last few years a little easier to navigate. I encourage everyone, young(ish) and old, to make things a little easier for your loved ones to handle the aging process by getting your legal affairs in order. It doesn’t bring your loved one back or make the disease progression go away, but in a small way, it helps. It’s one less stressor for the caretaker(s) and believe me, that can make a big difference.