The good news is we are all living longer. The bad news is we do not necessarily keep up mentally or physically (or both) with each passing birthday. So, are you prepped financially - and legally - if dementia is in your future?
According to a recent USA TODAY article, titled "Financial planning for dementia," a person with dementia often feels insecure that he or she will lose control and everyone else will tell him what to do.
Fortunately, there are conversations you can have now to help a person feel more independent and help families avoid misunderstandings later.
Family members may notice that a loved one seems more disorganized than usual. Bills may pile up. The loved one may have difficulty remembering names and fumble for the right words.
See a doctor if there are concerns.
Alzheimer's and most forms of dementia are progressive.
"Progressive" seldom means anything positive, even when it comes health issues. It means things will get worse over time. How fast? Well, that depends on just how progressive the condition is.
Fact: Despite human denial, everything in this life is subject to the second law of thermodynamics - entropy.
Consequently, even before a diagnosis, it is important for people to discuss with their families how they would like to be helped if entropy strikes in the form of dementia. This includes who will be the primary caregiver and who will help with finances.
We all know everyone should have a will, power of attorney and medical directive, and some find it helpful to have revocable living trust. Without these documents, a court may be required to appoint someone as a guardian (over personal and health care decisions) and conservator (over financial matters).
This court-driven process can be expensive, frustrating, and time-consuming.
It is much better, for all concerned, to engage an experienced estate planning attorney to help get these ducks-in-a-row by appointing the personal, health care and financial decision-makers of your own selection asap.
In the course of the disease, a person may need help with the "activities of daily living" (e.g., transferring, dressing, feeding, etc.) and may have trouble communicating. At this point, if not sooner, someone else should take care of all personal, health care and financial matters. In addition, it might be time to look at assisted living as the next step.
Speaking of financial challenges associated with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, they can be substantial. Also, the choices for care can be overwhelming. An elder law attorney is a helpful resource to help you and your families manage costs and find the right care for your parent or relative.
Because healthcare costs for dementia patients can be substantial, it is very important to provide financial security for the healthy spouse. That is why it is a good idea to speak to an elder law attorney, as he or she may be able to help a family protect some assets and income for the healthy spouse in a crisis.
My personal recommendation?
Avoid a "crisis" in the first place. In fact, that is what Gretchen and I did about six years ago. We took out a long-term care insurance policy so we would not have to burden family or go on Medicaid (i.e., welfare).
Accordingly, while you still have your health, best practice would be to contact a long-term care insurance professional who can counsel you regarding a wide variety of products available to provide protection for you, your loved ones and your hard-earned estate.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: USA TODAY (October 11, 2014) "Financial planning for dementia"