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The Dreaded Diagnosis – Part 1

       In this week’s blog post I want to revisit a question that I am asked often when I tell people what I do.  They ask, “when is the right time to plan for the possible need for long term care?”  For most people I think the optimum time is when they are considering, or have just reached, retirement.  What I mean is the healthy active senior depicted in commercials and ads for financial products and prescription drugs that promote an active lifestyle such as Viagra and Cialis.

       I do, however, add in my answer that if there is a family history of illness such as early onset dementia or an early diagnosis of an illness, my first answer is not really applicable.   In fact, in our office we are seeing more and more of what I call crisis planning cases – in which families call when a loved one already needs 24/7 round the clock care – in which that person is in their late 50’s or early 60’s.  Upon further inquiry, we learn that the diagnosis causing the need for care was made 5 to 10 years earlier.

       I think there are varied reasons for this.  Some illnesses such as ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) can strike at any age.  There are others, such as frontotemporal dementia that affect many people in their 40’s and 50’s during more active periods in their lives.  Another reason may be that while medical science has not had any breakthroughs yet in terms of cures for these and other conditions which are the common reasons for needing long term care, diagnostic testing has led to earlier detection.

       Learning of a diagnosis and what lies ahead is of course devastating to the patient and his/her family.  It is certainly understandable that looking towards and planning for the future is frightening.  But not enough families are using this additional time to plan ahead for the later stages.  It’s that failure to plan that can be devastating – not just for the person diagnosed but the entire family.  When it affects a young family with young children it has its own challenges – different than when the illness affects someone in their 80’s or 90’s.

       Next week I’ll explain what I mean.