Elder care lawyers work with families to prepare for any number of situations in the estate planning process. One circumstance which is especially relevant to elder care law is dementia. After all, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are almost exclusively conditions which appear or worsen with age.
Along with the emotional turmoil on the patient and family members, dementia also takes quite a financial toll. Alzheimer’s and related illnesses are typically degenerative, progressing slowly over time, while requiring considerable medical and personal care. Elder care lawyers have experience helping clients create plans which provide for both the medical and the quality-of-life aspects of these expenses.
Of course, early planning is of utmost importance. If it is suspected that you or a family member is developing Alzheimer’s, estate planning and other provisions should be arranged with an elder care lawyer as soon as possible. A dementia patient’s mental capacity will decline, and in order for predefined wishes to be followed, his or her current capacity cannot be in question. Getting started as soon as an issue is suspected is one of the best ways to ensure having the greatest say in the future.
Because of the progression of the disease, some of the most important decisions to be made are those of a medical nature. For example, a “health care proxy” needs to be drawn up to designate a trustworthy person to make medical decisions for the patient when he or she is no longer able to do so. If this person is not chosen in advance, it is likely the courts will need to appoint one at a later date. Again, taking care of this issue with an elder care lawyer now means that you have more control over what happens later.
Asset protection is another major concern for dementia patients. The physical progression of Alzheimer’s can take many years, while the mental progression may be much faster. This means the individual may require specialized care (including monitoring, nursing, and other personal needs) for a very long time, therefore depleting existing finances. Learning how to maximize the value of assets now can vastly affect the quality of care one can afford later. There is also concern regarding estate planning, as the costs associated with dementia can easily wipe out any potential inheritance unless the proper plans have been put into place.
When it comes to elder care, it makes good sense to seek a qualified attorney who can help navigate the ins and outs of the system as it relates the special needs of those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Steve Greenwood, Esq.