Stages of Dementia and Available VA Programs

Dementia encompasses a range of diseases causing loss of memory and/or deterioration of other mental functions. The condition usually occurs from physical changes in the brain and is largely a progressive disease.  This means it typically gets worse over time. How dementia progresses will mainly depend on the underlying cause of dementia. Although people will experience the different stages of dementia differently, most patients will share a few common symptoms.

There are several different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being among the most common. It is reported 1 out of every 9 adults in the United States age 64 or older has dementia.  This number increases to 1 out of every 3 adults over the age of 85. The medical community often discusses dementia based on stages.  The different stages represent the level the disease has progressed and the kind of symptoms expected in each stage. This gives the caregivers an understanding of how their loved one stands with the disease and enables them to determine the better course of action.  


*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.

The Three Stages of Dementia

Early Stage Dementia

Patients in the early stage of dementia usually have trouble remembering recent events, difficulty concentrating, have difficulty traveling to new places alone, and may have trouble managing their finances or remembering recently learned information. Patients also tend to start having difficulties socializing and might become unsociable withdrawn or avoid activities they previously enjoyed. While most of the symptoms here are mild, a physician can still diagnose dementia in its early stages. 

Middle Stage Dementia

The middle stage of dementia often sees patients having memory lapses. Aside from forgetting recent events, patients in this stage will start forgetting important information, such as their phone numbers, home address, and even the names of family members or close friends. While in this stage, most patients need some level of help performing daily activities such as meal preparation, bathing, and dressing. These and others are often referred to as Activities of Daily Living and abbreviated as ADLs.

Some patients in the middle and late stages of dementia also start seeing a decline in their ability to communicate and speak.  Incontinence will likely start becoming a problem. Other common problems include emotional issues and personality changes as the patient becomes agitated and anxious.  This may eventually lead to delusions. 

Late Stage Dementia

In the late stages of dementia, patients will often lose their ability to communicate and speak. Most patients will require help with the most basic activities such as eating or using the bathroom. Also, they may lose bodily function skills such as the ability to walk.

The best course of treatment to manage dementia will depend on the stage of dementia, and the patient’s overall health.

diagnose dementia

Managing the Stages of Dementia

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for dementia. However, several treatments have been shown to slow the progression of the disease, improve brain function, manage symptoms, and in many cases, improve the quality of life.

Research shows the key to effective dementia treatment is an early and accurate diagnosis. As such, it’s always important to consult a doctor if you notice any changes in your loved one’s memory and/or behavior.

Current dementia treatments are meant to improve the quality of life and slow the progression of the disease. These treatments are often a combination of therapies, medications, and symptom and/or behavior management strategies. 

Medications for Dementia

Properly prescribed Dementia medications can help to manage and temporarily relieve symptoms related to cognitive and memory function. Most medications are effective in the early and middle stages of dementia. Some of the most common ones include:

For some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage other conditions commonly associated with dementia. Many patients tend to struggle with depression, insomnia, anxiety, and psychosis.  Properly prescribed medications can help manage these symptoms and improve their quality of life. Examples of these medications include:

  • Antidepressants: used to improve mood and brain function
  • Anxiolytics: for relieving agitation and anxiety
  • Hypnotics: used to help the patients fall and stay asleep at night
  • Antipsychotics: for minimizing hallucinations and treating psychosis
stages of demenitia

Alternative Treatments for Stages of Dementia

Along with medications, dementia treatment often includes supportive care and therapies. These may help with behavioral problems to improve mood, reduce agitation, and increase relaxation. Here are a few examples of effective therapies for dementia:

Alternative medicine: A lot of doctors are now suggesting alternative medicines like massage therapy and acupuncture could be helpful with dementia, alongside medication. Such therapies help stimulate blood flow (massage) and improve energy (acupuncture). They can also ease the symptoms and help to relieve physical tension and pain. 

Aromatherapy: This is a safe way to help relieve agitation. Aromas like lavender and lemon are reported to help create a soothing environment promoting calmness and relaxation.

Art therapy: This has been shown to improve quality of life and slow cognitive decline, though more studies are needed to confirm the benefits for patients with dementia.

Brain exercises: According to research, brain training games and puzzles like Sudoku and Crossword Puzzles may help to slow down the progression of dementia. Playing board games, reading books regularly, and playing card games are all great brain exercises.

Cognitive rehabilitation: This helps patients in the early stages of dementia to maintain cognitive and memory function for as long as possible. It also teaches them compensation strategies to help those with declining cognition.

Diet: Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables, green vegetables and fish have been shown to have a positive impact on the symptoms of dementia. Foods rich in antioxidants can also help protect cells from damage.

Music therapy: According to research, listening to or singing soothing songs can help to reduce aggression and agitation.

Occupational therapy: This helps patients in the early and middle stages of dementia by teaching them coping strategies and behaviors to compensate for their cognitive decline and memory loss. It also helps their families make their homes safer for their loved one and provide techniques for managing difficult behaviors.

Pet therapy: This can help reduce irritability, agitation, anxiety, depression, and even loneliness. Many communities offering memory care usually have a pet resident or provide pet therapy. Seniors in such communities can enjoy the companionship of a pet without the responsibilities of caring for one.

Physical activity: Light and regular exercise has consistently been shown to help people with dementia perform better with their daily tasks and improve their mood and depression.

dementia diet

Memory Care for Veterans with Dementia

Memory care facilities are specially designed to provide housing and care for patients living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. These facilities offer a safe, specially designed environment caring for the residents with a focus on improving their quality of life, preventing wandering, and reducing confusion.

This approach to dementia helps residents maintain their skills for as long as possible, while also providing them with stimulating and enriching activities helping stimulate their cognition and improve their quality of life. Some of the benefits of memory care include:

  • Supportive therapies for dementia 
  • safe and secure environment for seniors with dementia
  • A low staff to resident ratio
  • Highly trained and experienced staff in dementia care
  • Coordinated and wholesome care, usually in partnership with other healthcare providers

 Veterans with any form of dementia could be eligible for certain services and benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans and their surviving spouses could be eligible for VA benefits that can help to pay for care related to dementia.  

dementia care

VA Programs for Memory Care

While there are many different programs through the VA for veterans with Dementia, below are some programs for which individuals may qualify.

  1. Home Health Aide Care: A homemaker or home health aide provides care to the patient in their home.  These individuals are trained to provide care in a home setting for non-medical services.  This program is for veterans needing assistance with activities of daily living.  It is also intended for veterans that are either isolated or have a caregiver experiencing a burden and needs help.  
  2. Veteran Directed Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS): This program assists veterans needing help with three or more daily living activities such as bathing, getting dressed, or preparing meals, the Activities of Daily Living. 
  3. VA Aide and Attendance: The VA Aide and Attendance program provides monthly payments, in addition to a monthly pension, for veterans and surviving spouses if they otherwise qualify.  This program provides reimbursement for expenses on care for individuals needing help with daily living activities.   This program provides funding for in-home care, adult daycare, and supplies needed for care, and many other possibilities.
  4. Community Nursing Home Care: This program is for veterans that need residential care 24/7 with skilled nursing and memory care.  Eligibility for this program is determined based on a service-connected disability, the level of the veteran’s disability, and their income.
  5. VA Community Living Centers:  A CLC or Community Living Center is a VA Nursing Care Center providing 24/7 residential care with skilled nursing and memory care services.  A CLC is designed to resemble a home setting as much as possible.  Like the Community Nursing Care program, eligibility is based on service-connected disability, level of disability, and income.
  6. State Veterans Home: A State Veterans Home provides 24/7 skilled nursing care, domiciliary care, adult daycare, and memory care in a VA run facility.  Eligibility for a State Veterans Home is determined by the state in which the veteran resides.

dementia care programs

Memory Care for Dementia Through the VA

The cost of care for individuals with dementia can oftentimes cause a big financial strain on family members.  For veteran’s, the process of applying for and getting approved for benefits can be lengthy and confusing.  At Paths Elder Law, our staff is highly skilled and experienced in VA and Medicaid benefits.  We can help you apply for benefits and work through the eligibility process to help you get the care you or your loved one needs for the different stages of dementia.

If you have any questions about VA programs for memory care and creating a long-term care plan, get in touch with Paths Elder Law today by visiting our website or giving us a call at 816-524-7999 to schedule a consultation.  Our caring staff is here to help.

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Community Relations

Jeane M. Fracassa

Community Relations

Jeane M. Fracassa

Jeane Fracassa – a dedicated and accomplished professional who retired with an impressive 38-year service record from the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. Throughout her illustrious career, Jeane served as a Civian Supervisor in the Communications Unit, where she played a pivotal role in ensuring efficient and effective communication within the department.

Even in retirement, Jeane’s commitment to community service remains unwavering. Currently, she serves in various capacities within Community Relations at Paths Law Firm. Actively engaged in the Lee’s Summit and Overland Park communities, she proudly represents the law firm.

In all aspects of her life, Jeane Fracassa exemplifies the values of community, compassion, and family. Her commitment to making a difference and her love for exploration make her a remarkable individual, whose presence brightens the lives of those she encounters. Whether at work, with family, or during her travels, Jeane’s genuine care for others and her zest for life make her a truly remarkable and inspiring person.

Administrative Assistant

Laura E. Messer

Administrative Assistant

Laura E. Messer

Laura is the Law Firm’s marketing assistant, supporting all marketing tasks, including managing calendars, researching upcoming events, updating marketing software and spreadsheets, and partnering with organizations to maintain relationships that benefit Paths Law Firm’s clients.  Laura is also the law firm’s professional photographer as she provides the professional photographs for the headshots, organizations, events, and networking.

Laura has over 10 years of experience as a professional photographer.  She is also Adobe and Microsoft Certified.  She graduated from Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri with her Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna Cum Laude, in Behavioral Psychology (minors in Social Work and Criminal Justice), and her Photographic Craftsman degree from Professional Photographers of America. She is certified as a Qualified Mental Health Professional, Certified Gentle Teacher, Medicaid Billing Certified, Crisis Intervention Counselor, and a Missouri Notary.

Laura has been married more than 26 years and has a daughter and a son. She has four brothers, a niece, and a nephew. Her four spoiled pets that love her attention. A lot of Laura’s off time is spent taking photos and she is an internationally published photographer. Laura owns a studio on the historic Independence Square. 

Administrative Assistant

Holly D. Bramble

Administrative Assistant

Holly D. Bramble

Holly is our newest member of the administrative team. She is hardworking, has proven organizational skills and excellent communication skills. Holly has transitioned to the Estate Planning field from healthcare administration where she gained valuable knowledge that has contributed to her success here at Paths.

Holly enjoys spending time with loved ones, cheering for the Chiefs, and relaxing on the beach.

Administrative Assistant

Tressa L. Purdy

Administrative Assistant

Tressa L. Purdy

Tressa has the important role of being a client’s initial point of contact as the law firm’s receptionist for all locations.  She also welcomes, assists, and cares for clients at the Lee’s Summit office. Additionally, she provides support in an administrative capacity for the attorneys, staff, and clients.  When you meet Tressa, the first quality many note is her readiness to be of assistance.

 

Tressa is a graduate of Park Hill High School with extensive administrative experience and executive level management. Tressa brings a stability and comfort to the law firm experience having worked in a variety of industries and having lived in six different major metropolitan cities.

 

Tressa has a daughter, two sons, and one grandchild.  In her free time, she enjoys her family and friends, loves being outdoors, gardening, bike riding and bird watching. Indoor hobbies include scrapbooking, painting cookies, and cheering on Chiefs football. She is a Kansas City native but enjoys traveling but is always happy to be back in her hometown.  

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton is an attorney and owner at Paths Law Firm. She has more than 17 years of experience advocating for those with special needs and navigating the state and federal agencies formed to help the disabled and elderly. At Paths Law Firm, Kathleen’s practice focuses on helping the elderly qualify for nursing home Medicaid, creating estate plans to protect beneficiaries, as well as a lot of time planning and forming businesses. Kathleen also enjoys helping clients form non-profit organizations and obtain 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

 

After attending law school at the University of Oklahoma, Kathleen began representing clients before the Social Security Administration. Eventually her practice switched to federal court appeals and Kathleen spent years representing clients before the Eastern and Western District of Missouri, the District of Kansas, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kathleen has since focused her practice on estate planning and elder law after watching clients struggle to find ways to financially care for loved ones with special needs or aging parents.

 

Kathleen lives in the Northland with her husband and four children. She spends her free time attending soccer matches and ballet performances with her children and starting endless home improvement projects with her husband. 

Medicaid paralegal

Tena K. Dooley

Medicaid Paralegal

Tena K. Dooley

Tena is a Medicaid Paralegal.  She is very meticulous and organized.  She works closely with the attorneys, clients, and State representatives. 

Tena has an associate in applied science and has over 20 years of office management experience. She has two daughters and one grandson.

Tena enjoys spending time with her family.  She enjoys everything outdoors and her hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL & ACCOUNTANT

Sydney R. Morris

PARALEGAL & ACCOUNTANT

Sydney R. Morris

Sydney is the law firm’s internal accountant and one of their experienced paralegals having been with Paths Law Firm since 2017. She is a primary point of contact for estate planning and business planning.

Sydney graduated with honors from the University of Missouri Kansas City in 2022 with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting. She is a Bloch Launchpad, Phi Theta Kappa, and National Honor Society alumni.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her husband, reading, baking and going on long walks. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Christy L. Phillips

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Christy L. Phillips

Christy has three years of experience in elder law working for seniors and their families. She is currently the Senior Administrative Assistant and organizes the day to day functions of the office and makes sure everything runs smoothly. When asked why she loved what she does, Christy said at Paths Law Firm, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite parts of the job are getting to know the clients and helping them get their questions answered. 

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as the Senior Administrative Assistant. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to the relationship she had with her grandparents. 

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has been with her high school sweetheart for 25 years and they have two beautiful children together. Her daughter works in the medical industry, and her son currently attends High School and plays Baseball. When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and spending time with her family and friends.

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as Benefits Coordinator. There have been many influences that went into her decision to select the field of Elder Law. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to her relationship with her grandparents.

When asked why she loves what she does, Christy said that at Paths Elder law, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite part of her job is getting clients approved for Medicaid or VA benefits as it is a huge relief for them and their loved ones.

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah, and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has two children that keep her busy and fill her life with joy! Christy’s daughter cheers for Avila University, and her son plays competitive baseball for the Bucks and races BMX locally for the Motorcycle Closeout Team.

When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and making homemade gifts for her loved ones and raising her kids to be healthy, happy, and positive humans.

 

Practice Areas

  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits

 

Professionalc Memberships and Affiliations

  • Missouri Notary

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

Rene A. Fracassa, Paths Law

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

In her spare time, René is currently quite active managing multiple generations of her family, including parents and grandkids.  René has had great impact on the lives of many women teaching discipling and teaching and abundance of Bible Studies. Her former career in management and event planning trained her well to juggle all the activity.

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hilary plays a vital role in managing the Marketing Department at Paths Law Firm.  She is excellent at bringing new ideas and sharing valuable resources with the law firm and our community. Hilary has been with the law firm since the beginning, working in nearly every role which is invaluable in her marketing endeavors as she brings a unique set of skills into the Marketing Department.

Hilary is nearly complete in her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Marketing at Park University.  She has earned the honor of being listed in National Honors Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Dean’s List. Hilary is always looking for new and innovative ways to share the law firm’s message.

While not working, Hilary spends her time with her family at their rural home. They tend to their chickens and honeybees and enjoy the solitude of country living.

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer is the Sr. Paralegal and Operations Manager at Paths Law Firm.  She oversees the firm’s probate department as well developing, implementing, and managing all the firm’s administrative processes having been with the law firm almost from the beginning.  She enjoys client contact as well as behind-the-scenes operations.

 

Jennifer began her legal career in 1990 as a legal secretary.  She has worked in small and medium sized firms, as well as court operations.  She has her Paralegal Certificate from Boston University, Law Office Management Certificate from University of Central Missouri, and she is a Master Financial Coach. 

 

Jennifer has two daughters, twin sons, and twin grandsons.  She spends as much time as she can with them.  She enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and tending her yard. 

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

When asked what he wants to do, his reply was “I just want to sit at the kitchen table and work directly with people.” Rusty enjoys working with clients providing experienced advocacy and supporting them through their unfamiliar and overwhelming situations. Due to all the challenges faced by seniors, it is essential to work with an experienced elder law attorney who has expertise in the law, issues, and concerns affecting seniors and their families.

Rusty brings more than 30 years legal experience and expertise working for seniors and their families as an elder law attorney in Kansas City and surrounding. Prior to law school, Rusty was an accountant and his first couple years practicing law was as a tax attorney. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty’s focus is helping protect seniors’ assets from taxes and long-term care costs, benefit qualification, and navigating more complex family scenarios in their estate planning.

Rusty has personally experienced the loss every parent fears, caring for a spouse suffering with cancer and the treatment, and working with aging parents through all stages of their lives.  He intimately understands the challenges faced by individuals and their caretakers when capacity or health declines, how to prepare for it, and the legal matters while in the midst of it.  He may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind.

In 2010, Rusty’s faith and love led him and part of his family to China as Christian missionaries. He and his wife, went permanently, but ended up dedicating 3 years to that ministry. They returned to Missouri to help with grandchildren after a family tragedy and later began anew with Paths Elder Law. The goal is providing compassionate care through legal advocacy.

Rusty has multiple degrees and advanced study spanning his Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Administration – Accounting at Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University), Masters of Arts in Accounting and in Intercultural Studies, as well as his Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law.

When Rusty is not practicing law, he enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren, and excessive eating at local restaurants.

Practice Areas

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits
  • Probate
  • Guardianship and Conservatorships
  • Education

 

BSBA and Master’s in Accounting, Master’s in Inter-Cultural Studies, and Doctorate in Juris Prudence

  • Rockhurst University
  • Liberty University
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City


Admissions to Practice

  • Missouri


Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • State Bar of Missouri
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (long-time Member)
  • Elder Counsel (Charter and Ongoing Member)
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (Past Member)
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Missouri State Bar Committees – Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate