By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
September 6, 2018
3 Steps to Take After a Dementia Diagnosis
Rather than referring to a single disease, the term “dementia” can be applied to a variety of symptoms involving a debilitating decline in cognitive thinking skills.
As we age, even the healthiest of us become increasingly at risk of dementia. In fact, as many as 5.7 Million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, one of the most common kinds of dementia, and that number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2050.
If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, estate planning may be the last thing on your mind. But it’s critical to take certain legal steps during the early stages of the disease while you are still of “sound mind”.
You must be of sound mind, or able to act freely, make rational decisions, and understand the consequences of your decisions, in order to sign legal documents.
Here are 3 steps to take immediately after a dementia diagnosis:
1. Create advanced care directives.
Health care directives are written instructions that explain your decisions regarding medical treatments. They can include:
- A living will. Unlike a traditional will, your living goes into effect before you die in the event of incapacitation. This document explains the kind of treatment you want (or don’t want) if you cannot make or express your own health care decisions.
- Health care surrogate designation. Sometimes called a “health care power of attorney”, this document designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Power of Attorney. This document gives someone you choose the authority to act on your behalf in specific matters.
2. Get your estate planning in order.
This means getting your affairs in order. Getting your financial and legal affairs organized. Making it easier and cost effective for your family to transition. Understanding how you’re going to implement your wishes to provide for an care for your family during incapacity and after death. Deal with post-death transition so your family does not have to scramble to do it. In that regard, it is essential to create documents detailing how you want to your assets to be distributed in order to ensure your wishes are honored and avoid costly future litigation.
Your will should also name an executor or personal representative who oversees the distribution of your estate when you pass.
In addition to creating a will, you should designate or review beneficiaries named on retirement saving plans, life insurance policies, and bank accounts.
This is important to do now, while you are legally able to do so. If you attempt to make changes in later stages of dementia, those decisions can be more easily contested in court.
3. Spend time with your loved ones.
Equally as important as getting your legal matters in orders is taking care of your personal affairs.
Visit with and discuss your future with your loved ones. For relatives you cannot visit, take time to write letters or make phone calls. Explain your wishes and concerns regarding living and driving arrangements, as well as your funeral and burial or cremation.
Think about the questions your loved ones may have in the future. What kind of assisted living would you prefer: a larger institution with a lot of activities going on or a smaller, more intimate, home-based assisted living? Should they invite Uncle Bob to your funeral even though you never really got along? Having a chance to talk to you about these issues now can help them feel more confident they are following your wishes later.
Also, take lots of photos and record videos. They can serve as a source of strength for your family as your disease progresses, and they will be cherished long after you pass.
Don’t Go It Alone
Dealing with a dementia diagnosis can be frightening and emotional, but you don’t have to deal with the legal matters alone. Our office is here to help. Get in touch with one of our empathetic, expert Florida estate planning attorney professionals today.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
YOU ARE NOT OUR CLIENT UNLESS WE EXECUTE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT TO THAT EFFECT. MOREOVER, THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. EACH SITUATION IS HIGHLY FACT SPECIFIC AND EXCEPTIONS OFTEN EXIST TO GENERAL RULES. DO NOT RELY ON THIS INFORMATION, AS A CONSULTATION TO UNDERSTAND THE FACTS AND THE CLIENT’S NEEDS AND GOALS IS NECESSARY. ULTIMATELY WE MUST BE RETAINED TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE AND REPRESENTATION. THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED AS A COURTESY AND, ACCORDINGLY, DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.