An Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can be a challenging journey for the person and family…
A diagnosis of dementia, a category of diseases affecting memory and thinking that includes Alzheimer’s disease, can feel overwhelming and upsetting. You might worry that you will lose control over your life and ability to make your own decisions. Fortunately, receiving a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s does not mean that you cannot execute legal documents or make decisions about plans for your future finances and health care.
People with dementia can execute legal documents to plan for their futures when they have the mental state — or capacity — to do so. Capacity refers to your ability to understand the contents of a legal document, such as a will, and know the consequences of executing it. If you know who your family is, understand your assets, and comprehend your will, you can execute a valid will and plan for the distribution of your estate after your death, provided you understand what you are signing and its effect on your life.
This is not limited to only those documents that are applicable after you pass away, but for documents that enable you to select whom you would want to assist you with your financial and health care decisions should you become unable to make those decisions yourself. It allows you to declare your wishes and put a plan in place that will help guide your loved ones in assisting you.
The following can help you in planning where you wish to live, what kind of care you receive, and what happens to your assets if you get severely ill or pass away.
Why do I need a Health Care Power of Attorney?
Consider appointing a health care agent to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated. You can name a health care agent using a health care power of attorney, sometimes called a medical power of attorney, durable power of attorney for health care or a health care proxy. Your health care agent can make medical choices if you can no longer do so.
Picking someone you trust, such as a responsible child or spouse, or another family member or friend, can give you peace of mind that they will have your best interests and desires in mind when they make decisions. For instance, dementia patients who prefer receiving in-home care can express this wish to their agent.
In the document, you can also state your intentions regarding health care and limit your agent’s capabilities if you wish.
Do I need a Living Will?
For an added layer of protection, you can also draft an advance directive called a living will that states your desires regarding medical treatment if you are unable to communicate with your physician and you are near your end of live. Your living will can express whether you want treatment to prolong your life in certain circumstances. This document helps alleviate the burden of the health care proxy in having to make a decision on their own, and can help reduce tension amongst loved ones in they event they do not agree as to a course of action. Having your intentions clearly stated will help provide comfort in knowing their decision was supported by your wishes.
What is a Power of Attorney?
Using a power of attorney or a durable power of attorney, you can select a trusted individual or individuals to handle your financial affairs if your disease progresses such that you can no longer make financial decisions. Your financial agent can manage your money and pay bills on your behalf, but they cannot use your money for themselves unless you permit them to. It also enables them to hire other professionals that may be required to obtain the assistance you need and allow them to execute necessary documents on your behalf to implement the plan devised to assist you.
The power of attorney also allows you to restrict your agent’s powers if you wish. As stated above for example, you might specify that the agent can manage personal accounts, but not be permitted to use those funds in any way for their personal benefit.
Should I consider Long-Term Care Planning?
After a dementia diagnosis, consider whether you would like to receive long-term care at home or in a facility, and whether you intend to apply for Medicaid or long-term care insurance. If you want to apply for Medicaid, you might need to prepare your finances to become eligible and explore means to protect your assets.
What is the value of a Last Will and Testament?
Making a last will and testament, also known as a will, can help ensure your assets go to your family and friends when you pass away and how you want them to receive it. You can determine how much of your money each beneficiary will receive and make bequests to individuals. For example, if you have items of sentimental value, you can leave them to specific people. Without a will, your assets will transfer to your heirs according to the law in your state. It also enables you to leave assets behind to a loved one who is disabled or has specials needs in a manner that would not interfere with any benefits they could be receiving. It would allow them to continue to receive those benefits and utilize your gift to help add some extra comfort to their life.
For additional support and to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, reach out to your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter. If you would like to speak with an experienced elder law attorney regarding your situation or have questions about something you have read, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 1 (800) 680-1717. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.