September is World Alzheimer's Month.
Alzheimer's is about so much more than memory loss. It can lead to behavior and personality changes, wandering away and getting lost, trouble with handling money and daily tasks, and more.
Care can cost families more than $100,000 each year, so family members oftentimes become caregivers.
When Christa Grauert's mother was diagnosed, she said the entire family dynamic changed.
"When I say full time care giving, what I mean is they're brushing her teeth, they're showering her, they're helping her use the restroom," Grauert said.
Grauert's father planned ahead, considering the financial and legal implications of the disease so that the family could better navigate it.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed, experts say it's important to consider as early as possible the legal and financial measures that can be taken to prepare for long-term care.
The conversation can be emotionally challenging, but physician and lawyer Eric Chess with the University of Denver Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging said the sooner, the better.
"There is a kind of point of no return, and that is that if someone does not have the legal capacity to make decisions, then they no longer have control over this preparation and planning," he said.
There are several measures families can consider including:
- Powers of Attorney for finances and healthcare: They allow a designated person to make financial or medial decisions when the person with dementia is no longer able.
- Living Will: It expresses how a person with dementia would like to be treated in certain medical situations.
- Estate Planning: Create documents that state what should happen to the person's belongings after they pass away.
"It also helps your family and close friends not to have to guess what you would have wanted," Chess said.
The Alzheimer's Association has resources for planning ahead. Click here for more information.