Comprehensive Planning. Lifelong Solutions.

Eye and smell tests may make early detection of Alzheimer’s possible

By Hook Law Center

Results of four new research trials suggest that changes to the eyes and ability to smell may be valuable in the early detection of Alzheimer’s. 

Reports presented at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen revealed that eye exams could be used to identify build-up of beta amyloid in the brain, while a decreased ability to identify odors may be an early sign of cognitive impairment.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the development of brain plaques, and beta-amyloid is their primary component. Plaques start to develop years before cognitive decline and memory loss. In two of the studies, measuring the level of beta-amyloid in the eye correlated with brain beta-amyloid levels and was accurate in identifying people with Alzheimer’s.

In the other two studies, loss of brain cell function and the progression to Alzheimer’s disease was associated with a decreased ability to identify smell.

These findings point to potential avenues for early detection of Alzheimer’s through biomarkers. However, more research is needed to develop these tests.

Currently, Alzheimer’s can only be detected late in the disease, after significant cognitive decline and memory loss has already occurred.

There are no effective treatments currently available for any stage of the disease, although some drugs are effective for a few months for some of the people who take them. Alzheimer’s treatment is primarily symptomatic, aimed at helping patients maintain their quality of life and keeping them safe.

If early detection tests were developed, their primary purpose would be to identify patients early on in the disease process for participation in clinical trials for treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s.

As effective treatments are eventually developed, early detection could be used to intervene and provide treatments early in the development of Alzheimer’s, before significant memory loss and cognitive decline has occurred.

Posted on Sunday, August 31st, 2014. Filed under Estate Planning, Long-Term Care.

Seniors may qualify for Medicaid by spending down assets safely

By Hook Law Center

Federal law dictates that only someone below a benchmark level of assets can qualify for Medicaid, beyond which it is determined that the individual does not have the assets to pay for his or her own care. Many seniors who apply do not receive Medicaid because their asset level is too high to qualify.

In order to qualify for Medicaid, it is sometimes prudent to “spend down” assets in order to reduce their value. Spending down should be done carefully, ensuring both continued financial security and the receipt of Medicaid.

Not all assets influence whether an individual can receive Medicaid, and these assets do not need to be spent down. A person’s home, car and physical possessions may not be counted. Prepaid funeral and burial arrangements and some cash may also be exempt. However, exemptions are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Medicaid programs allow individuals to spend down their assets on certain expenses. Assets may be used to pay off credit cards, mortgages or loans, including prepayment. They may be used for the prepayment of certain burial and funeral expenses.

The applicant can also use their existing assets to purchase an exempt asset, such as a home or automobile that meets the requirements for exemption. Assets can be used in the upkeep of non-countable assets, such as home repairs.

For people who are married, purchasing an annuity for the spouse can be an excellent way to spend down assets. An annuity guarantees the spouse a fixed income for a given number of years. Annuities purchased for the purpose of spending down must be non-transferable, and Medicaid must be listed as the primary beneficiary after the spouse’s death.

There are certain expenses that should not be used for spending down. For example, prepayment of caregiver services or other services is considered a gift and will actually cause the applicant to be ineligible for Medicaid for a period of time.

The process of spending down to quality for Medicaid can be complex. An estate planning attorney can assist in developing Medicaid planning strategies that are compatible with Virginia’s Medicaid regulations.

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014. Filed under Estate Planning, Medicaid.
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