There is no standard response to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. While some people approach news of their condition proactively, scheduling meetings with lawyers, financial planners, and loved ones to sort out care and end-of-life preparations, others shy away from these issues out of fear and privacy concerns.
If your loved one is in the latter category, it may be up to you to get the financial and legal planning conversations started. Doing this in a gentle but effective manner may be difficult, however, the degenerative nature of Alzheimer’s disease means that time is of the essence in scheduling this talk.
Starting a Conversation About Financial and Legal Planning with Alzheimer’s
To get started, approach your loved one with an understanding, yet firm explanation of why they need to begin financial and legal planning: to make sure that they are provided for no matter how their Alzheimer’s progresses, to ensure their family has peace-of-mind about the costs of care, and to be positive there is a legal record of their wishes regarding medical treatment and estate planning.
Avoid rushing and upsetting your loved one with direct mention of impending changes. Instead, come prepared with a short list of potential, near-term dates for the planning to take place. Narrowing the options beforehand will help you minimize unknowns and take some of the pressure of decision-making off the patient. At the same time, it will allow you to ensure that the planning with Alzheimer’s conversation happens in a time-frame that you both feel comfortable with.
Next, agree on who should be present for the planning conversation. This may include immediate family members, healthcare providers, elder law attorneys, and social workers with experience in arranging for geriatric care. Make sure your loved one with Alzheimer’s has input on this decision to show them that their opinions are vital and counted in all financial and legal plans.
Finally, demonstrate that you are ready to support handling the significant amounts of research involved in Alzheimer’s financial and legal planning. Prepare your loved one for the scope of the conversation ahead by presenting them with an agenda of the topics that will need to be covered in your planning session.
Alzheimer’s Legal Planning Issues
The specifics of what you should discuss will differ depending on the patient’s assets, insurance, age, health outlook and wishes. To make sure your discussion covers a comprehensive range of issues, seek out assistance from an experienced elder law attorney. He or she will be able to provide information on the enforceability of certain wishes, while taking the Alzheimer’s patient and their care team through a discussion checklist.
Legal issues that may need to be broached include:
- Power of attorney for health
- Arrangement for care of minors and pets
- DNR orders
- Funeral arrangements
Prior arrangements for dependent care, Do Not Resuscitate orders, and funeral plans make sure that those with Alzheimer’s disease have their wishes on important decisions documented while they have sound mental faculties.
Power of attorney planning aims to protect the patient when they are no longer of sound enough mind to make important decisions on their own. The person granted power of attorney, often referred to as a “proxy” or “agent,” will wield the responsibility of making decisions for the patient when such a need arises. This vital designation helps ensure that the patient’s best interests are being carried out and reduces the need for family disputes.
Alzheimer’s Financial Planning Issues
Potential Alzheimer’s financial planning issues include:
- Power of attorney for finances
- Living trust establishment
- Estate management
- Donation planning
- Will updates
- Care costs and financing
Estate management, donation, and will planning document the patient’s wishes for the assets and belongings they own. As in the case described in the section above, the agent granted power of attorney for finances has the power to make decisions about financial matters on behalf of the patient when they are no longer of sound mind. A living trust will appoint a trustee, who may or may not be the person who holds power of attorney, to hold on to the patient’s property and funds, and carry out instructions for their use.
Care cost arrangement is perhaps the most immediately pressing of these issues, as it addresses how the patient and their family will be financing Alzheimer’s treatment and care in the near-term. If the patient does not have the financial ability to pay for these services, they will need to review what their insurance or Medicaid/Medicare covers, and then assess their options for supplementing the costs. These options may include Alzheimer’s care loans, reverse mortgages, veteran’s assistance programs, or life insurance loans like Fifth Season Financial’s FLAG program.
Ensuring Peace of Mind
It’s important to think through the timelines of the patient’s needs when planning their legal and financial futures. Though getting through a conversation addressing all the sensitive issues outlined may be difficult, it will benefit both the patient and their loved ones immensely in the long run. Proper financial and legal planning and communication cuts down on immediate stressors like finding funding for care costs, and greatly minimizes later disputes by providing an account of the patient’s wishes.
The Funds For Living Program allows qualified individuals to receive advanced funds based on the face value of their life insurance policy and can be a great option for those who need to finance the immediate future. Find out more about the Funds for Living Program to learn how to help give your loved ones peace of mind.
Disclaimer: Fifth Season Financial is not a financial advisor or consultant and recommends that you speak to an advisor or expert before making any significant financial decisions.