A Letter of Competency

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

The reason for this may be due to the need of extensive care necessary to keep the loved one both safe and calm. When they reach the moderate stage, which comes about before you know it, they honestly should never be left alone, for their own safety. Some patients reach this stage fairly early compared to others.

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 very difficult to describe to the general public the hardships and stress that the caregivers of dementia patients must endure.

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

Unfortunately, very 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 nay sayers 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 the answers!”

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 very important piece of advice for you. At the time patients are creating a POA, Last Will and Testament or any other legally binding contract, have their doctor write a letter stating they are competent at that time period these were signed. I 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.