May 19, 2015

"Still Alice" brings Alzheimer's Disease into the spotlight

I am a little late with this blog post, because there have been so many changes in the law over the past weeks that I had to tell you about first. 

I offer a belated congratulations to Julianne Moore, who in late February nabbed this year's Best Actress Oscar for her role as a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease in the film, Still Alice.  Moore portrays Alice Howland, a neurolinguistics professor who is diagnosed with the disease at 50. Based on a true story, the film shows Alice and her family struggling to cope with their new reality. 

Moore's research for the role involved speaking first-hand with early-onset Alzheimer's patients, including the Alzheimer's Association's Early-Stage Advisor, Sandy Oltz. Executive producer of the film was Maria Shriver, journalist, former California First Lady, and advocate for families struggling with the disease. Shriver's own father passed away in 2011 from Alzheimer's Disease. 

In her acceptance speech, Moore expressed happiness "that we were able to hopefully shine a light on Alzheimer's Disease....One of the wonderful things about movies is it makes us feel seen and not alone. And people with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen, so we can find a cure.”

People with Alzheimer's Disease are not alone, and the public is seeing more of them in the popular culture. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 16 million Americans will be affected by 2016. It is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the country. In 2001 Judi Dench portrayed a novelist with Alzheimer's Disease in the film Iris. in 2006 Julie Christie was the patient in the film Away From Her. Literature abounds with stories about families coping with the disease, too, such as such as last year's bestselling novel by Matthew Thomas, We Are Not Ourselves.

Despite the spotlight on the problem and increased funding for research, there is still no cure and no prevention. I always encourage clients who have received a diagnosis to begin making financial and legal plans without delay, because there is simply no way to tell how long any one individual's capacity to understand and sign documents will last. It could be years, or months. When it comes to Alzheimer's Disease, time is not a friend. Putting the appropriate plans in place as soon as possible can prevent a future crisis and ensure a less stressful transition when the patient loses competence. Knowing plans are in place can give you a better quality of life right now. Steps to take include:
  • The spouse should also revisit his/her own plans.
  • Start thinking about how you will pay for long-term care should it become necessary. Do you have long-term care insurance? If paying out of pocket will financially devastate you, discuss asset preservation strategies with your Certified Elder Law Attorney, including exploring Florida Medicaid benefits and/or Veterans benefits.

Let's all keep hoping that a cure is on its way.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...