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After a Dementia Diagnosis: Preparing for the Future
Nov 30, 2022
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.
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.
Health Care Proxy
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 proxy, sometimes called a medical power of attorney or a durable power of attorney for health care. 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, 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 health care proxy document, you can also state your intentions regarding health care and limit your agent’s capabilities if you wish.
For an added layer of protection, you can also draft an advance directive or living will that states your desires regarding medical treatment. Your living will can express whether you want treatment to prolong your life. A living will is particularly important in providing guidance to the agent named in your health care proxy.
Power of Attorney
Consider appointing a power of attorney to make financial decisions and manage property if you become incapacitated. You can selected a trusted individual 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.
In the power of attorney document, you can give your agent whatever financial powers you deem appropriate. For instance, a person might specify that the agent can manage personal accounts, but not sell the family home.
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 in the foreseeable future. If you want to apply for Medicaid, it would be prudent to consult with our elder law attorneys regarding asset preservation planning in order to prepare your finances to become eligible.
Asset Preservation Planning
Depending upon your diagnosis, you may want to consider creating and funding either a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust in order to protect your assets from the cost of long-term care.
Consider meeting with the elder law attorneys at Kommer Bave & Ciccone to discuss your plans for your future.
For additional support and to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, reach out to your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.