Jennifer L. VanderVeen, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Tuesley Hall Konopa, South Bend INGetting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or other form of dementia can be a scary and confusing time for a family.  Among the many decisions that need to be made are treatment options, housing and care choices and financial management issues.

One of the calls we frequently get in our office is “My family member has just been diagnosed, what should we do?”  From a legal perspective, getting a solid estate plan in place, including powers of attorney and health care directives, is critical.  While your loved one still has the capacity to do so, signing powers of attorney gives the authority for financial decision making to someone that he or she trusts and allows the family to establish a safety net before a crisis occurs. As I discussed in a prior blog, giving someone power of attorney is not giving them control.  So long as you are able to make decisions, you retain the right to do so.

Health care consents and advance directives can provide family members with the authority and guidance they need to make ongoing care and end of life decisions once their loved one can no longer make these choices.  While your family member is still able to do so, having serious, in depth discussions regarding end of life choices can make future decision making much easier for the family.  Getting those decisions in writing, whether through a living will, Five Wishes declaration or a Physician’s Order on Scope of Treatment (POST) form, can make things a clear as possible for your family and medical providers.

Asset protection planning should also be discussed.  Although advances in care of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients now means a much lower likelihood of a long nursing home stay, every situation is unique and you should look at whether it makes sense in your situation to take action to protect assets from being depleted by costly long term care.  In most situations, the sooner you consider these strategies, the more effective they will be.

Once your family has had a chance to come to terms with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis and you have made your initial care and treatment decisions, sitting down with an attorney to review and discuss your legal options can provide your family with the peace of mind and security of knowing what the plan is for the future. Call (574) 232-3538 for an appointment to discuss your questions and concerns about estate planning after an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.