The world of professional baseball was recently shocked to learn that Tom Seaver was diagnosed with dementia. The news of the Mets’ Hall of Famer and three-time winner of the Cy Young Award has put the spotlight, once again, on the disease that affects so many of our senior population.
The best pitcher in Mets history has suffered with memory issues for years after being diagnosed with Lyme disease in 1991, when he lived in Connecticut. Tom Seaver has chosen to completely retire from public life. But this is a good opportunity for families to discuss this topic if they suspect that a loved one may also be suffering from dementia.
Unfortunately, where dementia is concerned, families are often not quick to obtain necessary and appropriate medical care for their loved one in these situations. Perhaps it’s out of fear … fear that it truly is dementia or fear that the family will lose everything. Or perhaps they don’t seek help because they’re ashamed, or embarrassed to admit what’s going on. What’s more, they may be worried that they will have to help their loved one come to terms with the idea that life will be different. Loved ones may become agitated and upset when they no longer can control what is going on around them and face losing their privacy and their independence.
Dementia-related diseases also raise legal questions that require immediate planning. Making these legal decisions may seem overwhelming to caregivers who are already emotionally and physically exhausted. Nevertheless, legal planning can help the family get the appropriate care for their loved one while also protecting the family’s resources.
When your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you are faced with many different issues:
How do you handle your loved one’s affairs when they can no longer do so?
How can you provide care for your loved one without neglecting other family members or your job?
Can you get help caring for your loved one if you are physically unable to provide that care yourself?
Is financial assistance available to offset the expenses of caring for your loved one?
Don’t let what may seem to be overwhelming circumstances paralyze the decision-making process. With good and accurate information a dementia sufferer and his family will be able to understand the options available to them so that they can make the important decisions that lie ahead. Perhaps talking about Tom Seaver’s condition is a good time to “pitch” the message to your family that help is available.
Attorney Daniel O. Tully is a partner in the law firm of Kilbourne & Tully, P.C., members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Inc., with offices at 120 Laurel St., Bristol (860) 583-1341.