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May 27th
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Alzheimer's patients' struggles not always eased by legal documents

eldercare031411_optBY CAROL ABAYA

A 68-year-old Ph.D. physicist, Bill, was diagnosed with Alzheimers two years ago. Initially the wife, Nancy, struggled alone because their daughter and his sister were in denial.

Even before family “acceptance” set in, Nancy had certain legal documents drawn up: Financial Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Testamentary Will. However, Bill continued to handle finances until very recently. Nancy was unable to do anything because the Power of Attorney was called “Springing.”

This meant that certain medical and legal steps were necessary before Nancy could handle finances -- as simple as signing a check on Bill’s account. In the meantime, Bill made some unwise financial moves, and Nancy could do nothing about them. His signature was still accepted for banking and investment purposes.


I just received a lengthy letter from Nancy.

“Bill has just been declared incompetent for any financial matters. So I am sorting out all the medical and legal implications. Bill seems rather oblivious to the whole thing.”

Nancy had to go to court to have Bill declared incompetent. This meant that two doctors had to sign documents that Bill was incompetent and to appear before a judge in court. Bill had to appear in court with Nancy. This meant that Bill’s condition became public knowledge and record. The whole process took several months and cost nearly $8,000. If the power of attorney had been a Durable Power of Attorney, then Nancy would have been able from the beginning to handle all the finances. And Bill’s condition would have remained private.

Nancy said that she had started to learn more about their finances last year, but still had a lot to unravel. She also said, “I suddenly became the only driver in the family....and now have to take over all the finances and other matters of everyday life.”

The couple’s only child lives in England, and before the AD diagnosis, Nancy and Bill traveled back and forth. Their 2011 holiday trip, Nancy said, will be their last.

In her letter, Nancy said that Bill is now oblivious to anything dealing with money or related to the details of everyday life. But she described how the family (Bill’s sister lives nearby) was keeping Bill “happy.” The key is tapping into Bill’s passions for certain sports and music. She said he still plays water volleyball and badminton, sings in a chorus and the church choir, plays the piano and the recorder, and even walks a neighbor’s little dog.

Nancy ends her letter by saying, “I read somewhere that time is a very precious precious that it’s given to us only moment by moment. Let each of us treasure those moments. Let us pay attention to the small miracles each day brings - a smile from someone, a monopoly game with a grandchild, a beautiful sunset, a gentle hug. And let us take time to stop and allow our many blessings to catch up with us. Each of you is a blessing. Thank you for being in our lives. We love you.”

Thank you Nancy for sharing this with me - and with all of you readers.

The Sandwich Generation is reader interactive and questions are welcome. Carol Abaya can answer your questions via her website or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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Comments (1)
1 Sunday, 26 February 2012 19:03
David Ketchum
Some 75 million boomers are ill prepared to cover the costs of long term care especially since Medicare and health insurance does not cover the bulk of long term care and Medicaid only does once someone has spent their live savings to the poverty level.

With only about 10% of those buying long term care insurance ( the rest will spend their estates on paying for care and some will end up on welfare health care (Medicaid) after spending all their money.

The Federal Deficit Reduction Act provided for every state to have a Partnership program to provide asset protection for those who buy qualified long term care insurance policies.

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