Recognizing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Week

“Does mom want to live in a nursing home?”

“Does dad considers living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia to be quality of life?”

“Do my parents have legal documentation in place that ensures someone can act on their financial behalf if they are unable to?”

discuss-alzheimers-and-dementia-weekThese three questions are just a few of things that adult children should talk to their parents about during Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Week,  which lasts from February 24th until the 21st. Knowing the answers to these and other questions is very important; families could be left struggling financially, battling over long-term care, and not truly honoring your parents’ wishes if they don’t have this conversation beforehand.

Talking about Alzheimer’s and Dementia can be stressful and upsetting, which often times leaves families to avoid talking about it until it’s too late. However, from a legal standpoint, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes or the documentation they have in place, you could be left in great disarray in the addition to having to see a parent go through this debilitating disease.

There are five conversations to have with your parents as soon as the opportunity presents itself:

Long-Term Care Preferences — Would your parent like to live in a nursing home or would they prefer in-home care? If they would prefer to live in a nursing home, talk about the amenities and activities they would like to be able to enjoy. Discussing these questions in advance can make the transition into an assisted living facility or a home health care program easier on everyone when the time comes.

Current Legal Documentation — It is crucial for you to find out what legal documentation your senior parents have in place before incapacity occurs. Make sure your parents have a power of attorney, health care directive, and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) forms so someone can easily step in to make medical or financial decisions on their behalf. Otherwise, your family will be forced to petition a court for control over your parent’s affairs if they pass the point of legal capacity.

Medical Preferences and Wishes — It’s very important to find out what type and how much medical care your parents wants after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Ask questions like Do you have specific wishes about life support or other end of life treatments? Who do you want to make decisions on your behalf? The answers will help your parents feel secure knowing their wishes will be carried out during an otherwise emotionally-charged time.

Current State of Financial Affairs —  To ensure their finances stay properly managed after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, this week is a good opportunity to ask your parents the tough questions about their financial affairs. This includes finding out the location of any safety deposit boxes, bank accounts, brokerage or investment accounts, and any outstanding debts or other assets you are unaware of. Otherwise, essential assets needed to cover long-term care or other expenses could be overlooked when memory loss ultimately occurs.

Important Contacts and Information — While their memory is sharp, work with your senior parents to make a list of important contacts and information that will be useful to the your family should memory loss occur. This should include documenting key doctors, professional advisers such as accountants, attorneys, financial advisers, as well as important passwords for online documents.

Having these conversations certainly aren’t easy, but it can help your family through the transition of living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, by simply planning ahead. If you have any trouble dealing with the legal aspects of this process, consult a qualified elder law attorney for helpful advice.

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