Planning Ahead for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Planning ahead, especially when the initial diagnosis is delivered or in the early stages of these memory diseases, is important to keep the patient’s wishes clear. Early planning will help the patient be involved in the process while allowing time to work through the numerous papers and legalities of end-of-care wishes. Additionally, those who will make decisions for the patient will be appointed, and all family members will have a clear image of what is to happen when the patient can no longer make independent decisions.
Begin with Legal Capacity
Legal capacity is simply the ability to legally understand and appreciate any consequences of personal actions and to make decisions rationally. A person must have legal capacity to sign documents. If a person without legal capacity signs a document, the document is not binding, or legal. The legal capacity of a person can be determined by a physician; patients in mid to late stage dementia or Alzheimer’s do not have legal capacity.
Any patient with memory loss or damage should be checked for legal capacity. Begin by talking to the person to see if he or she understands the document. Ask the primary physician if the person is mentally capable, and review the existing legal documents to make sure the document in question is not already in existence.
Meet with a Lawyer
Some legal documents can be completed without a lawyer, however, getting advice in filling out and ensuring the documents are followed might require legal advice. Lawyers specific to the aging practice elder law, and they are the experts in documenting end-of-life care. When meeting with a lawyer to prepare, discuss a few key issues:
- Health care options
- Personal property and care options
- Coverage of long-term care, including insurance options and coverage or veteran benefits.
Be sure to bring every document relating to any assets of the patient.
Checklist for the Elder Lawyer’s Visit
- List of itemized assets
- Estate planning documents, such as any existing wills or trusts
- Copies of real estate deeds, income tax returns, life insurance and health insurance policies, and admission documents to health care facilities or agreements with in-home health care facilities, such as Vancouver Home Healthcare Agency
- List including the names, addresses and phone numbers of any person involved in patient care
Quick Tips for Planning Ahead
- Anyone named in the power of attorney must have copies as well as access to original documents
- Name the dementia patient as a successor, or backup, agent for power of attorney
- A neutral third party should be considered for power of attorney
- Physicians and other health care professionals must have copies of all power of attorney health care and living will documents
- Attorneys or banks should be considered as a neutral third party or in the event that a trusted person can not be found to be power of attorney
The Vancouver Home Health care Agency can assist in finding an elder care lawyer and in planning the right documents for estates in Washington state. At Vancouver Home Health care Agency, Caring and Compassion is our business.