Alzheimer’s Caregivers Face Ethical Care and Independence Decisions



Hook Law Center (formerly Oast & Hook)

Hook Law Center (formerly Oast & Hook)

Virginia Beach, VA (Law Firm Newswire) February 19, 2015 – Whether at a slow or a fast rate, Alzheimer’s disease inevitably progresses, and patients lose their functional capacity. As this process occurs, caregivers are faced with a number of difficult decisions.

“Alzheimer’s caregivers are faced with ensuring care for their loved one while also preserving his or her independence and quality of life as much as possible,” said Andrew H. Hook, a Virginia elder law attorney with Hook Law Center, with offices in Virginia Beach and northern Suffolk.

One choice that often comes up relatively early is whether or not the elder should still be driving. At some point, all people with Alzheimer’s will lose the ability to drive, but many patients wish to delay the end of their driving days for as long as possible.

As the disease continues to progress, behavioral problems and wandering can develop. Patients will someday lose their ability to eat on their own and will need help with toilette. Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients require 24-hour monitoring. At some point, many families must choose whether or not to place their elder in a long-term care facility, which can provide more care and closer monitoring.

One extremely controversial choice is, as a spousal caregiver, divorcing an Alzheimer’s patient. Alzheimer’s can take many years to progress, and as the years go on, the person’s spouse may feel ready to start dating again. These individuals must decide whether or not they feel it is ethical to do so, and whether or not they should divorce.

Perhaps the most difficult decision is when and whether to move to hospice care. In its latest stages, Alzheimer’s results in death. Hospice is designed to help ease the suffering of people with terminal diseases and their families, but some families feel that hospice means giving up. Patients with late-stage Alzheimer’s and problems like recurrent pneumonia, pressure ulcers or inability to eat or swallow may benefit from hospice care.