An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or other chronic illness presents you with an opportunity to plan for the future. One of our first recommendations is to see an elder law attorney to review or implement an estate plan. If you haven’t done so already, this may include executing several key legal documents:
- Durable Power of Attorney—Your loved one names an agent or agents to act on her behalf with respect to financial and other matters.
- Health Care Proxy—Your loved one names an agent and an alternate to act on her behalf with respect to health care matters when she can no longer make decisions. This is also a very good time to discuss your loved one’s wishes, so that the agent will understand what decisions should be made.
- HIPAA Consent Form—Your loved one names an agent to obtain medical information or review medical records.
- Will—Your loved one directs what should happen with her estate after her passing.
There are other legal documents, such as trusts, which might also be part of an estate plan. We recommend that our clients see elder law attorneys who work exclusively with elders and persons with disability, who consider the entire family situation, and who will craft an estate plan that meets their loved one’s stated goals while leaving open the best option to obtain care in the future. Elder law attorneys should understand the various subsidy programs and work with you to arrange assets to maximize care options and eligibility for subsidy as needed. The rules around these programs are very complex and ever-changing; be certain to work with someone who specializes in this area and is up-to-date on its many intricacies. We can suggest local attorneys, or you can find an elder law attorney at www.naela.org.
For supportive services and education, we also recommend that you connect with the Alzheimer’s Association or call 508-799-2386 to speak with someone in the Central Massachusetts office. The Alzheimer’s Association offers a wealth of programs, training, support groups and written materials that can be most helpful. They offer a Care Consultation program—a free one- to one-and-a-half-hour consult with an Alzheimer’s Disease expert. One of their most popular free programs is called “Getting Started: A Primer After Diagnosis.”
Consultation with an ALCM can also help you to formulate a longer term care plan that can be implemented as the disease progresses.