When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you need to start getting their health, legal, and financial affairs in order. You want to plan for the future, if possible, with help from your loved one while they can still make decisions. You need to review all of their health, legal, and financial information to make sure it reflects their wishes. Here is a planning checklist from the National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center:
Update health care, legal, and financial information
- A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances gives someone called a trustee the power to make legal and financial decisions for the person with Alzheimer’s.
- A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care gives someone called a proxy the power to make health care decisions for the person with Alzheimer’s.
- A Living Will states the person’s wishes for health care at the end of life.
- A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Form tells health care staff how the person wants end-of-life health care managed.
- A Will tells how the person wants his or her property and money to be divided among those left behind.
- A Living Trust tells the trustee how to distribute a person’s property and money.
Check for money problems
People with Alzheimer’s disease often have problems managing their money. As the disease progresses, they may try to hide financial problems to protect their independence. Or, they may not realize that they are losing the ability to handle money matters. Someone should check each month to see how your loved one is doing. This person might be a family member or the trustee.
Protect your loved one from fraud
Scams can take many forms, such as identity theft; get-rich-quick offers; phony offers of prizes or home or auto repairs; insurance scams or outright threats. Here are some signs that a loved one with Alzheimer’s is not managing money well or has become a victim of a scam:
- Your loved one seems afraid or worried when he or she talks about money.
- Money is missing from your loved one’s bank account.
- Signatures on checks or other papers don’t look like your loved one’s signature.
- Bills are not being paid, and your loved one doesn’t know why.
- Your loved one’s will has been changed without his or her permission.
- Your loved one’s home is sold, and he or she did not agree to sell it.
- Things that belong to your loved one are missing from the home.
- Your loved one has signed legal papers (such as a will, a power of attorney, or a joint deed to a house) without knowing what the papers mean.
Reporting problems: If you think your loved one may be a victim of a scam, contact your local police department. You also can contact your state consumer protection office or Area Agency on Aging office. For help finding these offices, contact Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or www.eldercare.gov. For a list of state consumer protection offices, see www.usa.gov/directory/stateconsumer/index.shtml. You can also look in the telephone book for a listing in the blue/Government pages.
Who would take care of your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease if something happened to you?
It is important to have a plan in case of your own illness, disability, or death.
- Consult a lawyer about setting up a living trust, durable power of attorney for health care and finances, and other estate planning tools.
- Consult with family and close friends to decide who would take responsibility for your loved one. You also may want to seek information about your local public guardian’s office, mental health conservator’s office, adult protective services, or other case management services. These organizations may have programs that could assist your loved one in your absence.
- Maintain a notebook for the responsible person who would assume caregiving. Such a notebook should contain the following information:
- emergency phone numbers
- current problem behaviors and possible solutions
- ways to calm the person with Alzheimer’s
- assistance needed with toileting, feeding, or grooming
- favorite activities or food
- Preview long-term care facilities in your community and select a few as possibilities. Share this information with the responsible person. If your loved one is no longer able to live at home, the responsible person will be better able to carry out your wishes for long-term care.
Contact the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at 1-800-438-4380 or www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers for more information on planning for health, legal, and financial matters.
Source: National Institute on Aging, adapted by AgeWise, 2014.