Alzheimer and dementia asset management
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia can be devastating, but if either disease is in its early stage, it’s important to start making plans now. Sadly, many patients with memory loss have not handled asset management before the disease accelerates, therefore, completing this process early is in everyone’s best interest. However, if the diagnosis comes before the planning, it’s important to begin planning right away, because the disease progresses at different rates for everyone.
Planning for a financial future during the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia diseases ensures that all wishes are met as the diseases progress. Establishing this plan early will help everyone be more prepared, allowing the patient to focus on more important issues, such as personal care as the disease progresses.
At its core, legal planning must include the following steps:
- Review existing legal documents to make sure they are updated and express all wishes
- Make plans for all property or finances
- Create a plan for long-term care and future health care wishes or needs
- Name someone as a beneficiary to make decisions on your behalf, both medically and financially
What is Legal Capacity?
This term will appear during the planning process, as it relates to your capability of executing legal documents. Executing a legal document is simply signing the document to make it an official representation of the patient’s wishes. A legal capacity is the basic ability to fully understand the consequences of signing documents and the ability to generate rational decisions. This term will appear in later stages of memory diseases, as legal officials, doctors, and family members decide if the patient has the capacity to sign a document with the full knowledge of what is being signed.
The documents set in place make sure that all wishes are followed as memory diseases progress. The documents will make it possible for loved ones to act on the patient’s behalf when the patient can no longer make decisions. They include:
The Power of Attorney
This document allows the principal (the patient) to name someone else (referred to as the agent or attorney-in-fact) to handle financial and medical decisions when the patient can no longer do so. Successor agents should be named in the rare case that original agents become unwilling or unable to serve. The power of attorney will not give the agent the right to override the principal’s decision. As long as the principal maintains legal capacity, the principal maintains the right to make all decisions. The power of attorney for health care covers specific decisions, including:
- Type of treatment
- Doctors and other providers
- Care facilities
- DNR, or do not resuscitate, orders
- End-of-life decisions
Durable Power of Attorney
This document, specific to finances and property, allows a patient to designate someone to make decisions regarding all financial assets.
Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
This document is a standardized medical form. It will indicate very specific instructions for life-sustaining treatment, and will include patient wishes. The POLST is ordered by a physician, which means it must be signed and completed by a physician. As a doctor’s order, it is kept in the patient’s medical records. The POLST is meant to be a compliment to an advanced directive, not a replacement. It is not available in all states, but it is endorsed in the state of Washington.
The living will is a type of advanced directive which expresses the wishes of the patient near the end of the patient’s life. Some doctors will require specific forms for the living will; other situations require an attorney to create the will. The document must be signed by the patient, so creating this document before diseases progress or happen is important. An advance directive is a legal document which allows a person to accurately document preferences in care and treatment.
The standard will is common, and it is the one which is most familiar to most people. It is the document stating what will happen to a patient’s assets after death.
The living trust is another document to provide direction regarding assets and property. It will allow the patient to pull together all financial resources into a trust, then provide specific directions regarding the allotment of those resources. A trustee is appointed by the patient to handle this allotment. A backup trustee is a good idea in case the original trustee can’t or won’t handle financial matters.
Guardianship or Conservatorship
This type of document assigns a court appointed guardian to the matters of the patient. It is not a common practice, and is most often used when a patient’s family is in disagreement over who should handle decisions. Getting the courts involved can be taxing; preparing for care before disease happens can ease the emotional strain on a patient’s family.
Medical Release of Information
Having a medical release of information signed and on file is a good idea for everyone. This document allows doctors and other professionals to share information with the person specified on the form. Those helping to coordinate care will find this document helpful.
Hospital Visitation Form
Some domestic partnerships require this form. Some states, or even hospitals, will inflict strict visitation regulations, and a domestic partner may not be allowed to visit. This form will allow a non-family member to visit, and most hospitals will consider a domestic partner a non-family member.
Get the Advance Directives Ready
Most of the documents listed above do not need an attorney to be legal documents. Once the document is filled out and signed, it is binding. Search the following resources when looking for specific forms:
- State Health Department
- Estate and Legal Planning Forms
- Office Supply Stores
- State-Specific Advance Directive Forms
The Vancouver Home Healthcare Agency can assist in many ways with documents for asset management. At Vancouver Home Health Care Agency, Caring and Compassion is our business.