A dementia diagnosis is a traumatic time for any family. Dementia happens slowly and progressively over time. In the early stages, some symptoms are often thought of as just signs of aging. Beginning signs can be as simple as losing car keys, forgetting where the car is parked, or even forgetting to turn off the oven. Unfortunately, dementia is incurable and progresses over time. It is important to have difficult conversations sooner than later. There are a few things you can do to protect your loved one during this challenging time.
Gather Financial Documents
There are several advantages to having all financial documents in one place during an early diagnosis of dementia. Dementia patients usually have difficulty remembering where they put things. It is important to not only put all financial documents in one place, but to also make copies and have them kept with a trusted member of the family. It is a good idea to make a binder that consists of insurance documents, health care wishes, will, power of attorney, bank statements, and car titles. Original documents should be kept in a safe place. It is important to have discussions early on, while your loved one can remember important financial information.
Protect Their Assets
Elderly individuals are often a target for financial fraud. A dementia diagnosis could mean even more risk for your loved one. Financial fraud is not always done by strangers. It is important to keep a close watch on new “friends” your loved one starts spending time with. Keep a close watch on their finances to ensure they are not a victim of fraud.
Establish a Power of Attorney
Dementia can be scary. Your loved one will likely feel like they are losing control and may be reluctant to freely give their perceived freedoms away. However it is important to create a Power of Attorney. This will allow a trusted loved one to make financial decisions, conduct banking transactions and pay bills when the time comes.
Create a Health Care Directive
After a diagnosis such as dementia, it is important to understand your loved ones wishes. Health care, long-term care, and end-of-life treatment are very personal. Every person has different beliefs and concerns regarding what they would like to occur in the event they are not able to make decisions for themselves. These wishes should be very clear and stated in writing. Does your loved one want to be put on life support? Do they want to be resuscitated? Do they prefer an assisted living facility or in-home care? A Health Care Directive will outline the person’s wishes and it will also appoint a person that will make healthcare decisions when the time comes. Be sure to post health care wishes somewhere visible in the house and in your loved one’s wallet, in the event that emergency services are needed.
Review Estate Plan
Estate planning in the best of situations can seem overwhelming. There are financial implications for present and future generations. Emotional stressors include preparing for one’s own passing and trying to equitably distribute properties, investments, cash, and family heirlooms. However, when a spouse or loved one begins to suffer from dementia, forming a comprehensive estate plan is more important than ever. A basic understanding of the legal rights of someone suffering from dementia can help smooth the process. Having the trusted advice of an elder law and estate planning attorney can help navigate the process.