The “first victim” is the person who is actually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; the person who finds their memory failing, their personality changing, their past and present fading into a sea of frightening and confusing fragments of recognition. But Alzheimer’s disease affects more than just its victims, it touches the lives of their families and friends as well… especially their spouses.
These are the “second victims”; the spouses and caregivers who find their own lives fading away as well as they sacrifice and struggle to do right by a person with whom they have spent many loving years, who recognizes them—and whom they recognize—with less and less frequency. These “second victims” can suffer from depression and health problems as well, often with tragic results. This article in the Wall Street Journal states that, “A 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that spouses of people with dementia and psychiatric diseases were more likely to die themselves within a year of the afflicted spouse’s death, compared with similar cases involving colon cancer, fractures or heart problems.”
The WSJ article details the diminished existence of “second victims”, and exposes the controversy around how some of them are choosing to protect their mental health and find companionship again. Although this is at heart a very personal issue, it touches on some legal issues as well:
- How can you prepare financially for the full-time nursing care a late stage Alzheimer’s victim often needs? How does government assistance fit into the equation?
- How can you ensure that you or your spouse have a loving and trustworthy conservator caring for you when you are unable to understand and make your own medical and financial decisions?
- Is there a way to ensure that the wealth and assets you accumulated during your life together will pass to your children and grandchildren if your spouse chooses to one day remarry?
If someone you love is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease please don’t hesitate to let us help by taking the legal questions off your plate. Alzheimer’s disease creates enough loss and confusion without the added uncertainty that comes with these legal issues; and when you’re living day by day, every little bit helps.