Senior man with home caregiver shopping
If your loved one has been diagnosed with the Alzheimer’s disease it is important for you to take immediate action to protect them, yourself and the rest of your family. Once they are no longer able to make decisions with some level of cognitive understanding you will be helpless to implement important legal decisions to protect them.
I have listed below the important steps you must take. I would suggest you consult with a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) to complete items 1,2 and 5.
1.Establish a durable power of attorney for your loved one giving you the authority to act on their behalf in financial affairs. It is important that they understand the meaning of this act and can describe it to the attorney drafting the document. You should utilize a notary to verify your loved one’s signature. ( It would be beneficial for you to also have a durable power of attorney for yourself giving your child or a trusted advisor the power)
2.Create a health care proxy for your loved one giving you or someone you select the power to make health care decisions for them. This document must be witnessed by two non family members verifying that “at the time of execution the individual appeared to be of sound mind and able to understand the nature and consequences of said document”
3.Ensure that the health care proxy (health care agent) understands the circumstances in which you loved one wishes to continue life. Your loved one may choose to implement a DNR (do not resuscitate) order or a POLST (Physician’s order for life sustaining treatment) to limit the procedures to extend their life. These documents must be witnessed by a physician and maintained in a clearly visible location. Most emergency medical technicians recommend posting them on the refrigerator.
4.Gather together all the important financial information involving your loved one. Create a three ring binder which contains the following information: location of all pertinent legal documents, location of all life, annuity and long term care insurance policies, location of all investment accounts with related account numbers, name and contact information for all professional advisors, and a list of all internet accounts with user ids and passwords. You can utilize the questionnaire I have created to gather this info. Go to www.lifefoliosystem.com to retrieve this PDF document.
5.Review your will to determine if the document is still consistent with your wishes. In many cases you may have selected your loved one to be the recipient of any real estate, investments or other items of significant value. Based on your loved one’s health situation you may choose to name other’s to be the beneficiary of those items. Also make sure that the person identified as the personal representative (executor or executrix) of your will and your loved one’s will is still the right person to handle the disposition of your estates.
6.Create a plan to provide care for your loved one. Are you going to be able to take care of them at home? Will you need aides to help you? When would you consider moving them to a residence specializing in care for patients with dementia?
7.Plan and hold a family meeting with your children and your loved one (if possible) to discuss the situation and your plans for the future. If you are one of the children work with your siblings and parents to have this meeting. Communication between family members will be critical in dealing with this family crisis.
8.Review your financial resources to determine how to pay for your loved one’s care. The cost of providing care for an Alzheimer’s patient can sometimes exceed $10,000 per month. If your loved one is a veteran, explore their benefits with the nearest VA office including the aid and attendance program,. Explore the possibility of qualifying for medicaid if your assets are diminished. Go to www.medicaid.gov to learn more
9.Seek out and join a support group for caregivers. The role of a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient is a very difficult one. You need all the help you can get. Here on Cape Cod the Alzheimer’s Family Support Center provides support to caregivers at no cost! ( alzheimerscapecod.org)