Planning for a Loved One with Dementia

When a family member has been diagnosed with dementia, it is critical to get the family’s legal and financial affairs in order. There are several key areas that must be addressed in any situation where a loved one is diagnosed with dementia or will likely need long-term care for any reason. For example, families should discuss options and preferences for care; acting on behalf of someone who lacks capacity; and paying for long-term care. When a loved one is afflicted with dementia, it is a traumatic and emotionally draining experience for patients and their families; however, proper planning can help ease the emotional strain.

Typically, the primary planning goals include providing for the care and well-being of a loved one diagnosed with dementia; avoiding the devastating financial effects of an extended long-term care need; and maintaining family harmony. Due to the progressive, degenerative nature of most causes of dementia, the patient typically loses the ability to effectively communicate their wishes. If a family member diagnosed with dementia currently has capacity, time is of the essence to have planning documents executed prior to losing capacity. Without proper planning, after a person loses mental capacity to sign a contract, they can no longer execute a power of attorney, sign a will, or protect assets from Medicaid spend-down.

Families should discuss both available options for care as well as their loved one’s wishes. For many families providing care for a loved one at home is a viable option, at least short term. If family members can devote the time necessary to provide care, and/or the family has the financial resources, home care may be a longer term option. However, the children’s busy schedules or distant location often make home care a difficult option. If family members are unable or unwilling to help with providing care, the family will likely have to rely on paid caregivers. Placing a greater reliance on paid caregivers will increase the cost of homecare. For many families the cost of homecare with a high reliance on paid caregivers is cost prohibitive. Typically during the early onset of dementia the level of care needs are lower than during later stages of the disease. Many families begin with homecare provided by family caregivers, later hire paid caregivers, and ultimately rely on care provided in a nursing home. Therefore, the future cost of care will likely increase resulting in a reduction or depletion of retirement assets.

An open discussion of one’s wishes and the available planning options is a vital step to planning for a loved one with dementia. Preferably the entire family will be involved in planning decisions. It also important to begin planning as soon as possible to allow the person with dementia to be involved with the process so their wishes and interests are protected. Early planning can help ease emotional, legal, and financial burdens as the disease progresses.

If you have questions about planning for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, other form of dementia, or requires long-term care for any reason, contact Houma elder law attorney, John Sirois. Contact John by phone (985) 580-2520 or by email. Visit John’s website for more information. To order a copy of John’s book, Louisiana Retirement and Estate Planning, click here.