Wednesday, June 21, is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the day for a worldwide effort to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through fundraising. Individuals raise money through an activity of their choice and their commitment is an important reminder there is no cure.
Because there is no cure and families will spend years caring for the person with this progressive brain disease, the longest day of the year should be a reminder that putting your legal and financial documents in order is critical.
Unfortunately, too often people miss or ignore the warning signs and do not get a diagnosis until mid-stage, which can make putting legal documents in place difficult. In addition, a dementia diagnosis is life altering and, for many people, carries with it feelings of shame and embarrassment, which make sharing the diagnosis even more difficult. Keeping this diagnosis a secret is harmful in many, many ways. This secret does not allow you to put a support system in place and do care planning. This secret keeps you from doing the necessary legal planning while there is still legal capacity to execute (carry out by signing) the documents. Once capacity is gone, you will be faced with guardianship – a long, costly, and difficult process that can be avoided.
For this and many other reasons, it is important to have difficult conversations early and document any important desires. It is only with the person’s input that you will understand how they want to live their life in later years. Without this documentation of the person’s wishes for future care and decisions, problems can arise among family members. It can inhibit the ability to get the proper health care and long-term care needed. Since finances are tied to long-term care needs, financial planning is just as important and should be done at the same time as the legal documents. Elder law/estate planning attorneys specialize in this work and can keep you from making costly mistakes.
Here are documents to ensure are in place:
- Power of attorney names another individual to make financial and other decisions for someone when they are no longer able.
- Power of attorney for health care, also called ‘advance directive,’ names a health care agent to make health care decisions for them when they are no longer able. Decisions they are able to make include choosing doctors and other health care providers, types of treatments, and care settings.
- A living will is a type of advance directive which states how the person with dementia wishes to be treated in certain medical situations, such as artificial life support.
- Portable medical orders (POLST) is a medical document that is for people with severe illness or who want to be more specific about medical directives, like a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR).
- A Standard will names who will manage the estate and the beneficiaries. A will only goes into effect when the person dies and cannot be used to communicate with health professionals.
- Firearms retirement is an additional document to consider. This document establishes a gun trust that outlines how weapons will be handled once your person becomes incapacitated or dies and can designate how weapons will be passed on to family members.
Springpoint at Home’s Aging Life Care Advisor™/Care Management team has a level of expertise that will help you navigate this diagnosis and manage your new world. We can help coordinate the resources and the care needed to keep your loved one safe at home and support you on this journey. To find out how Springpoint at Home can help, call 844-724-1777.