Twenty percent of seniors between the ages of 70-80 develop Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. While everyone becomes more forgetful as a natural part of aging, Alzheimer’s is a more progressive loss of short-term memory. Both victims and their caregivers face issues related to Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout the progression of the disease, it is important that caregivers find support and that victims obtain appropriate legal documents.
When family members begin to recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one, it is important that they approach the subject with offers of help and support. Family members should help seniors stay independent and at home for as long as possible, as most adults want to stay out of a facility at all costs. At first, many families think that they can do everything by themselves when a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. However, this is a disease that no one should face alone, as organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association offer information, resources, and support for caregivers. Caregiving can be a difficult and demanding job, especially when caregivers do not take time off from caring for a loved one 24/7. Luckily, if a caregiver needs respite, there are several solutions: the caregiver can leave his or her loved one at adult day care, or place his or her loved one in a facility for several weeks or months. It is important for caregivers to have time off, as without it, their stress builds, their health deteriorates, and their own ability to manage declines.
With a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, your loved one may need very different legal documents. Most people have powers of attorney that are insufficient, as they are very simple and transactional in nature. These documents will allow you to sell the house, pay the bills, and coordinate business transactions. However, those suffering from Alzheimer’s must protect their assets. As a way to protect our clients’ assets, we typically transfer property from one spouse to the other without tax or Medicaid sanctions. However, most powers of attorney do not authorize the agent to make this type of transaction. For this reason, it is important for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s to have strong powers of attorney. Victims should also have health care documents that contain a separate medical release that is compliant with federal law regarding health records and privacy (or HIPPA).
Finally, most seniors have sweetheart wills where they leave everything to their spouse and equally to their children. When someone has Alzheimer’s and wants to preserve their assets, we recommend a modified sweetheart will. This document places all of the victim’s property into a supplemental needs trust for the sole benefit of the surviving spouse, who will also be eligible for government assistance if he or she needs Nursing Facility care. If the victim is on Medicaid, then he or she can stay on Medicaid without issue. This should be done when the victim is first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At that time, the victim should get new documents to protect his or her loved ones. The victim should choose an agent that he or she trusts absolutely. This is because these documents grant significant authority to the agent, which could be abused.
If you or your loved one needs assistance with Alzheimer’s issues, or if you have questions about government assistance programs such as Medicaid or Veteran’s Benefits, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars, learn more through our website at www.wgalaw.com, or call us at (919) 256-7000. Also, every Tuesday morning at 9 am, you can listen to our radio show, “Asset Protection Today,” on Talk Radio 850 WPTK (AM) with Attorney Bill Alexander.