December 01, 2018 Book Review

Don't Let Dementia Steal Everything

Overview & Survey of Dementia

Book Review by David Godfrey

Don’t Let Dementia Steal Everything

By Kerry Peck and Rick Law

Dementia touches the lives of everyone. Every one of us has either a family member, friend, neighbor or colleague living with dementia. The progressive changes in memory and cognition that define dementia have legal consequences. While we urge every adult to plan for incapacity with powers of attorney, and advance heath care directives, planning becomes critically important for a person with dementia.

This book starts with a basic description of dementia, its various forms, and how it impacts the person. The second chapter explores how the progressive nature of dementia brings with it increased risks and care needs. It is important for a person living with dementia and their loved ones to work with an attorney familiar with dementia and its unique challenges. The third chapter describes how to find and engage an attorney who is dementia competent. There is an excellent chapter on the basics of planning for incapacity, exploring the capacity needed to engage in planning, and core planning documents such as advance health care directives and powers of attorney. The book offers an honest evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each document and offers practice tips on how to make them most effective.

Paying for health care is important for any person with a progressive illness, more so for a person with dementia because of the predictable loss of memory and decision-making ability. Chapters are devoted to understanding both Medicare and Medicaid, offering a fundamental understanding of who is covered under each program and what kinds of care is paid for. The rules for Medicaid vary from state to state. The book offers an excellent overview of Medicaid eligibility on a national basis (not an easy task.) There is a chapter devoted to the Veterans Benefits that help many persons with dementia and their spouses.

Without planning, or if planning fails to work, guardianship may be needed. Chapter nine explores the issues of guardianship, including how to avoid it, when it is needed, and when guardianship goes wrong and becomes a part of the problem. The chapter is a must-read for everyone. Another must-read chapter examines elder abuse and financial exploitation. Scammers and crooks prey on persons with dementia, taking advantage of the decline in judgement and memory.

The greatest wish of most persons with dementia is to remain at home, with care by committed loved ones. The last chapter of the book explores the issues of in-home care and paid caregivers.

The book is an easy read, at about 180 pages. It is written for a consumer audience and would make a good survey overview for professionals new the area of legal issues in dementia. The chapters have tips and check lists. There are short interviews with key experts throughout the text.

I will keep a copy on my shelf to share with persons and families experiencing dementia.

The book is published by the American Bar Association / Senior Lawyers Division. It is available in the ABA webstore and through bookstores and online retailers. A much-needed Kindle edition will be available sometime in 2019.