Q: My spouse was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. What do we need to do to prepare legally for the future?
A: A diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease can be very scary and un-nerving. You do not know what the next few years will look like, and there is usually worry about maintaining the same quality of life. In the midst of this uncertainty, to focus on preparing your family legally and financially is not always an easy thing to do. However, taking the time to do this planning is so important and will save everyone a lot of stress in the future.
An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or any kind of dementia allows you time to make a plan and involve the person with the diagnosis in decision making. This process can be empowering for your spouse and help them feel more in control. Once all the planning is complete, you can both focus on enjoying your days and having the best quality of life possible.
Preparing legally will ensure that the finances and property are managed according to your wishes. It will also ensure that appropriate powers of attorney are in place to make decision making easier in the future. A power of attorney document allows you to designate a person to make financial and other decisions when you are no longer able.
Start by examining the documents you currently have in place. If you already have an elder law attorney who helped you put documents in place this is a good time to meet again to review and make any needed updates. Senior Concerns in Thousand Oaks and the Camarillo Healthcare District in Camarillo both offer pro-bono legal and financial consultations on elder law issues if you do not know where to start.
If your spouse was the person managing finances make sure to review them together and write down all account locations, account numbers and passwords. This will allow you to take control of the finances in the future, if and when it is needed.
Both you and your spouse should make sure you have an up-to-date Advanced Healthcare Directive to not only explain your end of life wishes, but to name someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to make those decisions yourself. Consider not just automatically naming your spouse as the agent but think through who will be most able emotionally to follow your wishes in a crisis. This is a conversation to have with the people in your life.
Senior Concerns will be hosting a virtual seminar on this important topic, titled Legal and Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Disease. It will be presented by Christopher P. Young, Esq. He will review the steps to putting your legal, financial, and future care plans in place. This is presented over Zoom on Tuesday, October 19th at 3pm. To register go to https://www.seniorconcerns.org/seminars/
Planning legally in the event that someone can no longer make decisions for themselves is really a gift to their loved ones. It ensures the loved ones will be cared for and will reduce their stress. Truly everyone should do this type of planning in case of the unexpected. Take the time now to have these important conversations with your spouse and to put the needed documents in place.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org