As soon as you are about to care for an elder with Alzheimer’s you need to review your loved one’s durable power of attorney for finances and their advanced health care directives. Unfortunately, if that person is not of sound mind or body (especially if they are in middle to late Alzheimer’s), then it is too late for them to prepare these important legal documents. However, if you go to court and ask the judge to name you the guardian (either full or financial conservatorship), then you will be held responsible for your elder’s legal and financial decisions.
Durable Power Of Attorney
A durable power of attorney names you as the person to pay the elder person’s bills, collect and deposit their income and take care of any other financial matters. You will need to find your elder’s legal and financial documents and feel comfortable with their assets, income and expenses.
Here is a list of documents you should gather:
o Bank and brokerage accounts
o Deeds, loans and ownership statements
o Pension and retirement benefits
o Social security information
o Insurance policies
As someone who is charged with caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, you need to know that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and that level of care may grow and change over time. You’ll need to consider the cost of long-term care, prescription drugs, and in-home caregiving services. There are several ways you may be able to cover the costs of long term care that includes looking at your elder’s employer’s insurance plan (group and retiree coverage), disability insurance, Medicare and Medigap, and long-term care insurance. Your elder might also qualify for social security disability and/or Medicaid. And you should not forget about community programs to help with meals, respite care and transportation.
Advanced Health Care Directives
Advanced health care directives ensure that your elder person’s health care requests are communicated to the health care providers and that you as the guardian act on your elder’s behalf. Advanced health care directives also include a living will which tells health care providers what your elder prefers should become incapacitated. The living will gives preferences for life-prolonging treatments such as using a respirator, CPR, dialysis, surgery and antibiotic drugs. The elder and guardian can choose to receive all life-prolonging treatments, a few or none at all. The living will should also state whether your elder wants artificially administered food and water when they are close to death.
Here is a checklist of other advanced health care directives:
o Appointing your durable power of attorney for heath care who will consent or refuse consent (who would usually be the guardian). He or she can also fire and hire medical personnel, gain access to medical records and get court authorization
o Naming the doctor to supervise care
o Identifying and specifying treatments given or withheld (stated above in living will)
o Stating feeling about care-does the elder want full does of pain medications every time?
o Providing instructions for organ donation
After all of the papers have been signed and notarized, be sure to make plenty of copies and keep the originals in a safe, with other copies readily available at a moment’s notice. Handing the details for your loved one with Alzheimer’s is a great deal of work, but you will be saving yourself so much time and agony if the financial, legal and healthcare matters are well-planned before your loved one moves into an assisted living facility or if additional home service care is needed.
Resources: Alzheimer’s Association 225 N. Michigan Ave. Fl. 17 Chicago, IL 60601-7633 1-800-272-3900
Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center P.O. Box 8250 Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250 1-800-438-4380