Legal Planning for People with Dementia

Many people are not prepared to deal with the legal and financial aspects of a medical diagnosis like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis alone can be devastating and overwhelming. It often takes time for an individual and their loved ones to come to terms with the consequences of a serious illness, especially one that is expected to cause declining mental and physical health. Because of the nature of a disease like dementia, it’s important to take action as soon as possible to review and update important legal and financial documents and any health care arrangements.

One of the major complications of dementia or Alzheimer’s is that the person with the disease can lack capacity or the ability to understand information and think clearly. This may affect their ability to make decisions on their own. Because of this it is important for someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s to document their wishes and decisions regarding their financial and medical wishes while their capacity is still intact.

Legal, Financial, and Health Care Planning Documents

Documents like a health care proxy, living will, advance directive, or durable power of attorney are key for a loved one that has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is often important to consult with an attorney that specializes in working with clients with dementia because they are familiar with the needs that will arise for individuals with this diagnosis.

Medical Documents
Health Care Proxy/Advance DirectiveAppoints a person to make health care decisions on your behalf
Living WillDocuments your wishes related to your end-of-life care
HIPAA ReleaseDesignates a person to have access to your medical records and gives them the authority to communicate with your doctors

Other documents that might be appropriate include organ and tissue donation, do not resuscitate orders, MOLST forms.

Legal Documents
Durable Power of AttorneyAppoints a person to make financial decisions on your behalf
Last Will & TestamentDocuments your wishes on how you would like your estate to be handled after your passing. This includes naming an executor and outlining how you want your assets distributed after your death
Living TrustAllows you to appoint a trustee to hold and distribute your property or money for your benefit during your life or to the loved ones you designate after your passing
Key Advisors

It’s important to start talking about planning for the daily needs and care for the person with dementia as early as possible. The rate of decline differs for each person with dementia. It’s important to allow your loved one the opportunity to participate in the process of making decisions for themselves. It’s also important to consider bringing some important key players into the conversation to make sure that you’ve covered all of the major aspects of planning.

Health Care Providers

Doctors and medical professionals can guide patients and their families to make important decisions regarding medical treatments. Consider choosing a doctor that specialize in dementia and who can evaluate memory and thinking issues. Often times the medical care team may include a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, and a geriatrician.

Elder Law Attorney

An elder law attorney specializes in legal issues related to aging, specifically diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. These attorneys are familiar with estate planning and can assist with developing an estate plan to ensure your wishes are carried out. They are also knowledgeable when it comes to understanding financial options to finance long-term care and asset preservation.

Geriatric Care Managers

Geriatric care managers are usually social workers or nurses who have been trained to help individuals as they age. They offer a lot of value to people with dementia and their loved ones. They can assist families in finding valuable resources to provide care and other services to help meet the daily needs of a person dealing with dementia.

Financial Advisors

Financial advisors are important to consult with because they can help a person with dementia develop an investment strategy to help them pay for the cost of their care. They can also document and discuss the process for bringing on a trusted contact as an extra layer of protection against financial fraud or exploitation.

Steps You Can Take

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s or another serious illness it’s important make sure you have a plan in place. Our firm offers personalized estate planning services to help you design a plan to give you peace of mind. Contact Us today to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss how we can help you with your estate plan.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

About the Author

Alyssa Marie Monteleon, Esq.

Alyssa Marie Monteleon is an elder law and estate planning attorney at the Monteleon Law Group, PLLC with offices in New York and Virginia. For more information, please visit or call (914) 840-2529.

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