As cognitive capabilities of a loved one begin to decline, families must deal with serious questions concerning finding consistent and safe care, as well as face overwhelming costs. How long can our loved ones safely stay independent? How long can they stay at home alone?
Families are not prepared for these challenges. Often, the worst mistake can be to ignore the problem. Since these issues are far more complex than you realize, and there are usually options available that are unknown to you, it is critical that you seek professional guidance. Your local Alzheimer’s Association is a good place to start. A Geriatric Care Manager, who will investigate issues with the home and care needs of your loved one will be money well spent.
Importantly, you need to see an experienced Elder Law attorney as soon as possible. In terms of the financial crisis for a spouse or family created by Alzheimer’s or Dementia, this disease can be devastating. The right attorney can help you through this financial crisis by helping you apply for and receive government assistance, avoid spousal impoverishment, and protect your assets. See an Elder Law attorney at the discovery of the disease – not at the end.
Legal planning for Alzheimer’s/Dementia requires a skillful lawyer-one that can provide unexpected solutions. Your basic legal documents should no longer be so basic.
- Most people have executed a simple Financial Power of Attorney. These General Powers of Attorney DO NOT WORK for the kind of asset protection planning that you will need to battle this disease. A well written Power of Attorney, prepared and signed before there is question of competence, can save your home and nest-egg. Generally, all of your combined property needs to be titled in the name of the healthy spouse. If this is a second marriage, the aforementioned issue can be tricky when protecting the spouse and protecting the children of a previous marriage. Also, the GDPOA is important in allowing for asset protection planning without going to court for permission from a judge.
- Most people sign a Will that leaves everything to a spouse and then equally to their children. We call this a sweetheart Will. While this plan is okay for a single or widowed person, it is a terrible plan for a married person dealing with this disease. Your Will should now contain a Supplemental Needs Trust for your spouse that will provide for government assistance, take care of any need not provided by that assistance, and protect all of your assets for your children at your spouse’s death.
- Advanced Directive for Natural Death (Living Will) – If appropriate for you, this document directs your physician not to use a machine to keep your body alive in drastic situations.
- Health Care Power of Attorney – This document allows you to appoint one or more agents to make medical decisions for you when you can no longer communicate your wishes for yourself. This document can keep your family out of court, as well.
- HIPAA Medical Release Form – Many families don’t have this simple document, and it is required by Federal law for medical care providers (Hospitals, Doctors, etc.) to share your confidential medical information with anyone, including your family and appointed agents.
- Trusts, both Revocable and Irrevocable – Trusts can play an important role in getting you financial support for the care you will need, as well protect your home and other assets at the same time.
W. G. Alexander & Associates is a premier Elder Law firm with significant experience with Medicaid, Special Assistance, VA Pension Benefits, and other government assistance programs, as well as the practical issues facing families dealing with this dreaded disease.
Learn more about Long Term Care Planning for Alzheimer’s/Dementia at one of our monthly seminars at the Holiday Inn Crabtree. Call 919-256-7000 for more information.