A Starting Place: Planning for Dementia & Alzheimer's

July 20th, 2017

It generally starts slowly, such as when a family member can't locate the vehicle keys or reads a story about a major news event and can't recollect it by noon. While forgetting is a natural human feature, a long-term pattern of forgetfulness might indicate a larger problem.

The most frequent cause of dementia, Alzheimer's, is a progressive illness. Problems with "memory, reasoning, and behavior" intensify with time and finally render an individual unable to do everyday chores.

  1. It presently affects 5.8 million individuals in the United States and has no treatment.
  2. If you or a member of your family has Alzheimer's or dementia, you may be familiar with the difficulties that the disease can cause, as well as the physical and emotional toll it can impose. On a personal level, this condition is tough for caretakers since it generally entails learning new methods to relate to a loved one. It might also be difficult to assess his or her financial future.

The Personal Struggle

Knowing how to deal with someone who has Alzheimer's or dementia is one of the most difficult aspects for family members or cares working with them. Their conduct may be significantly different from what it was several years ago, and they may have difficulty recalling what you have taught them. While some family members and caregivers may become annoyed by these concerns at first, it's crucial to remember that you're engaging with someone who has a condition. While they may appear to be healthy on the outside, there are many changes taking on in their brain that physically restrict them from acting the way they used to.

You don't expect someone who has the flu to get out of bed and run a marathon. Similarly, you may not want to treat a person with dementia as if they were a kid or feel irritated if they can't recall information. Instead, try to maintain you’re cool and simply exist in their world. If your grandma asks you three times in an hour how your father is, simply respond with the same answer you gave the first time and then bring up a different issue. One of the fascinating elements of dementia is that, while it tends to impair short-term memories, people with the condition can often retain long-term memories, such as those from their childhood or school days. In order to help them feel more at ease, you might ask them to retell some of their recollections.

The Planning Challenge

Consider hiring an expert attorney to assist in identifying and creating the documentation required to help safeguard a family suffering with the condition in the long run. It is also advised that a wealth adviser with whom the family is familiar coordinate the needs for these papers. The adviser may develop a financial strategy to cover any changes in family income, caregiving demands, and other costs. If the person diagnosed with the condition is the same person who has traditionally managed the family's finances, bringing other family members up to speed and ensuring proper precautions are made can be a tough transition. A wealth adviser may assist with this process by ensuring that the family is appropriately prepared, beginning with the preparation of the following papers.

  1. Health Care
    • A Living Will is a collection of instructions for a family and physician to follow if a person becomes unable to make decisions. The living will states whether or not a person desires to undergo life-sustaining treatment in the event that the individual is unable to make that decision for themselves.
    • The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care permits a person to appoint a health care agent to make medical choices on his or her behalf if the person becomes incompetent or is otherwise unable to make such decisions. If a court determines that an individual is mentally incapable, this document may also name a conservator or guardian to oversee his or her affairs. This is especially critical if the individual's dementia has progressed to the point that he or she is unable to manage his or her personal affairs.
    • A Do Not Revive Order is a basic document that informs healthcare practitioners that if a person's heart stops or they cease breathing, the physician will not attempt to resuscitate the person. While this is a personal decision, individuals who choose to form one do so to avoid leaving it up to family members to determine whether to initiate life-support measures that may prolong an individual's life even if he or she does not regain consciousness.
  2. Finances
    • A Financial Power of Attorney empowers a person to appoint an agent to handle his or her financial affairs if the individual becomes disabled or otherwise unable to manage his or her money. Managing money may entail maintaining any assets named in an individual's name, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, or retirement funds, as well as just paying payments. If the individual has a revocable trust, the financial power of attorney may authorize the transfer of assets into the trust if it remains underfunded while the individual is incompetent. This is an essential document in the case of someone with dementia because it permits a trusted individual to serve as an agent in managing funds to guarantee the individual with dementia can pay for treatment.
    • A pour over Will directs where one's assets go after death, but it must be authenticated by a probate judge, which might take a while depending on where the individual resides. A Revocable Trust can be used instead of or in addition to a will to simplify asset distribution and skip probate court entirely. A revocable trust, sometimes known as a living trust, is intended to maintain and own the assets of the trust-maker while also setting instructions for how the estate should be administered if the individual becomes incompetent or dies. To handle the trust's property, the trust-maker selects a trustee, who might be a person or an entity.
    • Families still have alternatives if a person's dementia or Alzheimer's has progressed to the point that he or she can no longer lawfully sign financial and healthcare agreements owing to incapacity. A conservatorship is a court-appointed position that allows a conservator to make financial and healthcare choices in the same manner that a power of attorney would. 3 While the procedure can be costly and time demanding, it may be the best decision for some families in the end, but it will necessitate significant support from a qualified attorney.


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