Sep 4, 2011

Rhinestone Cowboy not riding off into the sunset

Glen Campbell, the Grammy Award-winning writer/performer of the hit song Rhinestone Cowboy, is not riding off into the sunset. Despite his recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease, the 75-year-old musician intends to perform as long as he can. He just released an album and has embarked on a farewell tour. Campbell is just one of many celebrities who have made their diagnosis public. What makes Campbell him unique is his plan to remain on the public stage. He makes no apologies for his lapses, laughing when he told a CBS interviewer that he was not sure of his age.

What is not unique is the years of creeping symptoms that elapsed before Campbell's diagnosis. It can be hard to make a definitive diagnosis, since most people become a bit forgetful with age. But beyond that, most people  tend to sweep their symptoms under the rug. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the average person has about eight years to live after symptoms become noticeable to others. That makes early detection very important. The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner critical medications can be administered; the sooner patient and family can adjust; and the sooner vital legal planning can be done.

Anyone diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another dementia needs to put an effective estate plan in place without delay. If there is an existing estate plan, it should be reviewed. If the patient has a spouse, he/she must also create or review his own estate plan, since in all likelihood the spouse's plan will have named the patient as Personal Representative, Trustee, Durable Power of Attorney agent or Health Care Surrogate.

The estate plan should include:

A Durable Power of Attorney for Property, which will empower one or more persons to handle the patient's finances when he/she no longer can.

A Health Care Power of Attorney, giving someone else the right to make the individual's medical decisions.

A Living Will, specifying what kinds of life-prolonging treatments the patient wants or does not want.

A Will and.or Living Trust.

Contact our elder law/estate planning attorneys to examine your estate planning options.

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