LeBlanc: A letter of competency

In my estimation there is no disease that can tear a family apart faster than Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

The reason for this may be the need for extensive care to keep a loved one both safe and calm. When they reach the moderate stage, which may come about before you know it, they honestly never should be left alone — for their own safety.

The number one complaint I hear is, “I’m the only one in the family who’s doing anything to help.” More often than not this is accurate. Everything is falling upon “Mary’s” shoulders. What the rest of the family seems to be missing is that poor “Mary” is falling apart.

It is difficult to describe the hardships and stress that caregivers of dementia patients endure.

There’s a 24-four-hour-a-day, inescapable weight of self-doubt that follows caregivers wherever they go: “Am I doing enough?” “Am I doing it right?” And while experiencing this mental anguish, they are doing everything possible not to lose their patience with the ones for whom they’re caring.

Unfortunately few of the rarely seen kinfolks realize this. After a phone call or a visit, more often than not they will be heard to say: “Mom really seems to be doing quite well. I don’t know what the fuss is all about.” This can drive the caregiver to distraction! These uninformed visitors aren’t there after the visit or phone call to hear, “Who in the world was that?”

Yes, this is when the doubters and naysayers make matters so much worse. Their interference in the last stages of Alzheimer’s adds so much confusion and anxiety to the life of the caregiver who has been there 24/7, often for years. It’s so unfair for them to come along and be critical at this juncture. They may make statements like, “What do you mean she’s on Hospice? How did it get to this point?” I’m telling you, it just makes you want to shout, “Maybe if you’d been around for the last few years, you’d know!”

Sadly, this is sometimes when lawyers appear on the scene. One of the most common arguments brought to the table is, “I don’t believe they were competent at the time they made you power of attorney.” More often than not these are the same people who for the past several years kept saying, mostly from a distance, “Mom sure seems to be doing just fine.”

Here’s a bit of advice: When patients are establishing power of attorney, creating a last will and testament, or producing any other legally binding contract, ask their doctor to write a letter stating they are competent. I then would make sure the lawyer retains a copy for safe keeping. The last thing a caregiver needs when coming to the end of this exhausting battle is to end up in court with his or her own family. Deplorably, this happens everywhere and every day.

I have seen this disease tear families so far apart that they never mend. Keeping all legal and financial matters protected may prevent this from happening to you and your loved ones.

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