Still Alice: Early Onset Alzheimer’s Creates Immediacy for End-of-Life Documents

Still Alice: Early Onset Alzheimer’s Creates Immediacy for End-of-Life Documents

We saw Still Alice last weekend, the excellent movie about early-onset Alzheimer’s that arrived in theaters a few weeks ago and for which Julianne Moore received a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. Still Alice is riveting and haunting, the story of a woman at the top of her game–a linguist, writer, lecturer and professor at Columbia. Just 50, she finds herself forgetting words—for a woman for whom language has been her career, this is deeply disturbing. She finally consults a neurologist and learns that her early-onset Alzheimer’s is very progressive and that her children are likely carriers.

An estimated 80% of us will experience some form of dementia

Many of us are dealing with dementia now with our own parents and extended family members. In the case of Alice, the disease’s progress was very rapid—she played little word games to try to keep her mind sharp and left herself notes and reminders . . . until she no longer could. Her family stood by helplessly as they became strangers. In a cruel irony, by the end, the brilliant linguist had lost her ability to speak.

There are no happy endings with Alzheimer’s

It’s a tragedy for the victim and the family members who love and ultimately must provide for the care of this person. A movie such as Still Alice raises important issues about creating end-of-life documents such as Living Trusts, Financial Powers of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directives. We all think we’ll have plenty of time for this when we get old. But in Alice’s case, she was in her prime, enjoying a successful career and professional acclaim.

Creating legal documents while you still have the capacity to make informed decisions

There’s another issue that Still Alice raises, and that’s the matter of getting end-of-life documents in place before dementia makes it impossible to understand the issues and make informed decisions. You can’t make a legally valid Will, Power of Attorney, or Advance Healthcare Directive unless you are of sound mind–you must be able to understand your family circumstances, act of your own free will and understand the consequences of your choices.

Stop in to one of our three California Document Preparers offices soon to get started on your Living Trust. We also include a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive as part of our package.