by Wendy Pester~
Living with dementia, or being the family caregiver of someone with a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, is challenging enough. Don’t wait until it’s too late to plan for the future. When that initial diagnosis comes down it’s exactly the time when you need to take action. You want to start planning for the future immediately, while you or your loved one is still capable of making those important decisions. You need to review all health, financial and legal matters to ensure that all wishes are in place, and known to those who will be providing future care and guidance. Following is a list of documents that should be prepared or brought up to date:
Durable Power of Attorney (for Finances and Health Care): A Financial Power of Attorney gives the appointed individual (the trustee) the authority to make legal and financial decisions for the incapacitated individual. The Medical Power of Attorney provides the appointed individual (a proxy) with the authority to make decisions related to healthcare and the health and wellbeing of the incapacitated individual.
Living Will: A living will declares a person’s wishes for end of life care.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR): This document provides instruction to healthcare professionals as to how an individual wants end of life care managed.
Will: A will details how an individual wants his or her money and property divided and distributed after death.
Living Trust: A Living Trust directs the trustee on how to distribute the individual’s money and property.
One of the first questions I ask when I begin working with a dementia client or the family of a dementia client is “do you have your legal house in order?” All too often, I meet with families who are caring for a loved one with dementia, and discover that in fact, they do not have any of the appropriate documents prepared. In some cases, the dementia client is so far advanced in their dementia that they are no longer capable of making these critical decisions. At this point, a Petition for Guardianship may be filed with the courts.
What is Guardianship or a Guardian? You ask. A guardian is appointed by a judge after he or she determines that you are incapacitated. A guardian is someone who is responsible for your personal affairs. The appointed guardian is responsible for your wellbeing, and will make decisions that you are no longer competent to make. For example, your guardian could decide where you live, whether it is at home or in a nursing facility, what doctors you see, what healthcare you receive, even what you eat. Everyday decisions that you can no longer make for yourself are made by a court appointed individual. Is this how you would want your future to play out? Quite possibly, the court appointed guardian could be someone you would not have chosen to tend to your affairs, or perhaps a complete stranger.
Don’t wait until it’s too late, contact a local elder law attorney to prepare or update your legal documents. To locate an elder law attorney in your area visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)