For the past 10 years, attorney Edmund J. O’Meally and his wife, Dawn, have seen the toll Alzheimer’s disease can take on a person through the impact the disease has had on his mother.
In an effort to help others in the same situation navigate important decisions related to the disease, the couple is hosting a seminar and a fundraiser for the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
“I have had a front row seat of the daily decisions that need to be made to keep a person inflicted with this disease comfortable and safe and, given my career as an attorney, I have become attuned to the long-term impact of Alzheimer’s on an individual’s financial and living arrangements,” said O’Meally, a member at Pessin Katz Law P.A. which has offices in Towson, Bel Air and Columbia.
Next week, PK Law is hosting an event in its Towson office to talk about estate planning issues unique to individuals and families with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease.
“The unique issues relating to Alzheimer’s have to do with how the disease can progress so slowly and take a toll on the family financially and in terms of caregiving,” said Kevin F. Bress, an estate planning and elder law attorney who is leading the April 16 event.
Because the disease progresses slowly, caregivers need to find funding sources such as life insurance that contain a long-term care rider or a viatical settlement, which allows people to sell their life insurance policy, Bress said.
Bress also advises caregivers to make sure the family has access to retirement funds that are typically inaccessible when the patient cannot give consent to withdrawing that money.
Estate planning in these cases can also create some conflicts, especially when the afflicted person remarried, Bress said. One common source of conflict Bress sees is the caretaking spouse wants the afflicted spouse to be in another care setting while children expect the spouse to keep the parent at home.
“That can get pretty ugly,” Bress said. “Where families may have inherent conflicts, any steps taken when the capacity is marginal is likely to lead to some litigation alleging that the parent transferred an account through undue influence.”
Bress often refers people to a geriatric care manager to help relocate a family member into a care facility, which can be a difficult transition.
“Everybody feels guilty sending mom or dad to long-term care, yet it’s often the best environment at that stage of the disease,” he said.
The O’Meallys hope they can lend their professional connections and expertise to help others navigate those difficult situations. In March, Dawn O’Meally, owner of The Counseling Center for Change in Westminster, held an educational seminar titled “Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”
“Dawn and I are passionate about providing resources and guidance to individuals and their families that feel the tremendous toll of Alzheimer’s,” O’Meally said. “Both of our professions have assisted us in this course, and we hope people will take advantage of these programs to help minimize the learning curve.”
Next month, the O’Meallys are hosting the “Forget Me Not Gala” at Antrim 1844 in Taneytown to raise money for research and educational efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Maryland. The event will also feature presentations from a psychiatrist with Good Samaritan Hospital and from Steven Lockard, the superintendent for the Carroll County Public Schools, whose father passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.
“We’re hoping to make it a fun occasion and at the same time raise awareness,” O’Meally said.