Your Alzheimer's, Memory Questions Answered

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Your Questions Answered

Question: Six months ago we applied for VA benefits for my mother. My dad was a Vietnam veteran, and she has been approved, but the benfits are being withheld due to her incompetence to handle her funds. So now we are in a bind to continue her care, and what are we supposed to do? I am 31 and I don't have the means to pay for it. Are there any other options for financial help? She has absolutely no assets, nothing. Everything they had saved was used when my dad's illness prevented him from being able to work, and she was laid off from her teaching job due to her incapacity to perform her duties there. So the main question is: How do the younger "victims" of this horrible disease, pay for care costs?

Answer: For you, and many families facing Alzheimer's, legal and financial questions can be a significant obstacle. A first important step is to seek legal assistance. You may need to get either durable power of attorney or be appointed conservator for your mother in order to collect her VA benefits. A qualified elder law attorney will advise about this and assist with completing and filing the appropriate papers, which may include an application for Medicaid.

You may want to consult the Alzheimer's Association, Georgia chapter for names of elder law attorneys by calling 800-272-3900 or visting the association's Web site to find an elder law attorney in your area.

- Paul Raia, Ph.D., Vice President for Patient and Family Services, Alzheimer's Association, Mass./N.H. Chapter


Question: How do you know if a person with Alzheimer's is close to the end? Are there signs?

Answer: Most patients will follow a series of changes as they progressively deteriorate as a result of Alzheimer's dementia. Patients in their final months will become less interactive, lose the ability to speak and communicate and become incontinent of both stool and urine. They eventually become bed-bound, as they no longer are able to walk or transfer.

They will no longer remember to eat, and often push food away if fed, and have progressive weight loss. As a result of these changes, they are more susceptible to infections such as pneumonias and urinary tract infections and are admitted to the hospital more frequently.

They may also develop bed sores and contractures (inability to extend and flex their joints). Some individuals become more agitated and disruptive. Other patients become withdrawn. Regardless, in these final stages, these individuals will require total assistance for all of their activities of daily living.

I hope this is helpful.

- Mohana Karlekar, M.D., Medical Director, Palliative Care Program, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Your Alzheimer's Questions Answered

Question: Can Alzheimer's cause seizures?

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