You’ve started to get a little concerned about your spouse’s cognitive abilities. You’ve noticed that they’re more forgetful than you think is normal, and their personality has changed. They’ve gotten more withdrawn and moody.
Could this be the early signs of mental decline, the symptoms of some form of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease? Once you’ve reached a certain age, these kinds of concerns are not uncommon. The real question is, “What are you going to do about it?”
Neuropsychological testing can provide insights that allow you to plan
One of the first things you may want to consider is asking your spouse’s primary care physician for a referral to a neuropsychologist. These are specialists who can measure someone’s baseline cognitive functioning and – if appropriate – confirm the early signs of dementia. (They can also, through yearly exams, track the progression of the disease.)
Here are some of the ways that having an early diagnosis of dementia can help you and your spouse:
● You and your spouse can get your wills, a trust, your advance directives and powers of attorney in place now, while your testamentary capacity is still intact (which will prevent challenges later).
● You can make decisions today that will allow you and your spouse to qualify for benefits in the future, once long-term care becomes necessary, through Medicaid planning.
● You and your spouse can make decisions about future medical care and set them down clearly through advance directives.
● You and your spouse can express your desires for long-term care (including which facilities you’d prefer and why) to your relatives in advance.
● You can learn more about guardianship procedures and when guardianship may become appropriate for your spouse.
Planning for the future can be exciting – unless your future is filled with uncertainty caused by the infirmities of old age. When you’re trying to set goals for the future, don’t overlook the things that need to be done today to get your estate plans in order and make sure that you and your spouse will have the care you need.