Though the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be a distressing time for the patient and his or her loved ones, elder care advocates say that it is critical they begin advance planning for financial arrangements and health care as soon as possible. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease of cognitive decline, but it can last for many years. Putting plans into place early can help make a significant difference in how that time can be spent.
If someone suspects that there are memory issues or other cognitive concerns, they should see a neurologist, geriatric assessment clinic or memory clinic for testing. If there is a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the results will give a baseline which may help when charting out a plan of next steps.
A person with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease should then work with an elder law or estate planning attorney to ensure that their legal planning is thorough. Documents to be addressed include health care documents such as an advance directive which explicitly instructs health care choices (sometimes called a “living will”), and a durable power of attorney for health care decisions. The financial documents to be developed include a will, a durable power of attorney for finances, and possibly a living trust.
An elder care lawyer or estate lawyer can also assist in mapping out the financial options available for care. Some people find that spending down their assets to qualify for Medicaid is the option for them, but those assets need to be released at least five years before applying for Medicaid. Many states now have some level of a partnership-eligible, long-term-care policy available to help individuals protect some of their assets while using Medicaid. The purchase of a partnership policy which covers as much as $250,000 of care may allow the patient exhaust benefits and qualify for Medicaid while still holding onto assets up to $250,000.Other financial concerns for people with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis include checking with their bank’s policy on power of attorney and whether they need their own forms. Some banks require that they have their own power of attorney forms on file, which may be difficult to procure later on.
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