How to Plan for Elder Care after an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
How to Plan for Elder Care after an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is among the more feared outcomes of the human aging process.
Although better understood than it once was and with enormous research and experimentation underway in search of a cure, Alzheimer’s remains the most threatening Bogie Man for those approaching our golden years.
The medical questions arising from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis are many. From a legal perspective, the question for Florida residents struggling with such a diagnosis is how best to prepare yourself, your family, and your assets for what lies ahead.
Early Indications of Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease
First, what are some signs that you may want to seek out a diagnosis?
Typically, early indications of a need to seek an Alzheimer’s diagnosis include:
- Issues with memory;
- Wavering concentration;
- Problems with task completion;
- Confusion and spatial relations difficulties;
- Lost vocabulary;
- Poor decision-making ability;
- Mood swings or social withdrawal.
How Alzheimer’s Is Tested and Diagnosed
Alzheimer’s Disease is diagnosed through a variety of steps, including mental status and neuropsychological testing, by both your primary care and specialist physicians. Brain-imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans, and positron emission tomography tests (PETs) may also be utilized to rule out other conditions that may simply exhibit Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.
Additionally, your doctors may wish to interview friends or family members to assess the extent of your possible social withdrawal, depression, or other behavior changes.
It is highly advantageous to obtain an early diagnosis, if at all possible.
When diagnosed early, the progress of the disease can be slowed or at least managed to certain extents. An early diagnosis allows doctors to offer drug-based and other treatments within a timeframe in which they will be most effective.
Likewise, an early diagnosis also means that you will have the opportunity to attend to your legal needs in a timely manner.
Florida Elder Care Planning Generally
Elder care planning, generally, is a process of ensuring that the right documents are in place to ensure for your assets, your care, and your medical treatment, as things progress.
Elder care planning typically involves estate planning documentation preparation, Medicaid planning, nursing home, and long-term care planning, and Social Security Disability denial appeals, among other services.
Even under normal circumstances, it is essential to address these eventual needs on a timely basis as the unexpected can alter any of our lives, at any time.
The purpose of Elder Care legal services is to ensure that you are able to maintain the lifestyle and condition you would prefer under your own particular circumstances.
The secondary purpose is to ensure that the integrity of your assets is maintained, whatever medical condition may be yours to shoulder.
A quality Florida Elder Care attorney, therefore, is empathetic and understanding of both needs.
Elder Care Planning After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Elder Care Planning for those with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is very specifically a process of planning for incapacity.
This takes the two primary purposes of Elder Care law a step further.
With an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you know that you will, at some point, become legally incapable of making healthcare or asset-protective decisions for yourself.
Thus, the focus of the assistance that a Florida Elder Care lawyer provides is upon ensuring that the world is organized around you in the most protective manner possible.
Your mission in embarking upon this planning journey is to locate the best Elder Care attorney in the Orlando area to smooth the way ahead for you.
What can an Elder Care lawyer do for you after you’ve received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis?
The first step is to ensure that your estate plan is up-to-date and drafted to specifically account for your onward progress into this debilitating condition.
Review or Draft and Execute Estate Planning Legal Documentation
The following documents are essential to create and maintain before your incapacity prevents you from doing so.
Last Will and Testament
First, it is vital that you retain an experienced Florida estate planning attorney to draft your Will to ensure that it complies with state law and will be enforceable upon your death.
An online form, particularly those generalized for use in any state, may not comply with Florida law.
Using such a document runs the risk of the Will being found invalid or being contested. Without a valid Florida Will, your property and later estate will be distributed pursuant to Florida’s intestacy laws.
In other words, it will have been no different than passing without leaving a Will at all.
A valid Will in Florida must be in writing and, crucially in your case, after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, must be made by a competent person.
This means that you must be over 18 and must be of sound mind. Time is of the essence!
The Will must be properly signed and witnessed.
Further, an experienced Florida estate planning attorney will save you the trouble of including language that has no legal effect. If you have a wish or need that you would like recorded in the Will, the Florida lawyer will draft it properly—or at least will gently let you know that your recorded demand that Paul McCartney play “Hey, Jude” at your funeral with a barbershop quartet will not necessarily come to pass.
Florida Living Trust
A living trust, or revocable trust, will help your estate to avoid probate after your death, at least those assets which have been transferred into it prior to that point.
A living trust is so-called because it is created while you yet live.
Its purpose is, ultimately, a vehicle for simplified distribution of your assets after your death, avoiding probate and providing tax benefits, while maintaining control of your assets while you yet live.
The tax benefits of a trust are outside the scope of this article, and you should discuss this instrument with a Florida estate planning attorney.
Unlike a will, a Florida living trust cannot simply be downloaded as a form from the internet. It is a highly specific document that may only be legally drafted by a licensed Florida attorney.
Generally, you are the initial trustee of a living trust. The trust will designate a lifetime beneficiary with control of the trust’s income and assets during your lifetime. It will also designate a death beneficiary to receive what is remaining upon your passing.
Note that a living or revocable trust does not provide any protection for your assets. It does not protect them, for example, in the case of a bankruptcy filing.
Long-Term Care Planning
After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you will want to discuss with your attorney and family the possibility that someone else takes on the role of initial or subsequent trustee.
As important as updating your legal documentation to account for your property upon your death maybe, you are thankfully not there yet. Alzheimer’s is an insidiously slow-moving disease that may leave you physically capable while legally incompetent for many years.
Thus, ensuring your long-term care is the core of your immediate planning needs.
You will need to prepare documentation to appoint agents to make medical decisions on your behalf.
A living will is a document that mandates your healthcare preferences. It is particularly useful in an end-of-life scenario to inform your medical care providers of your wishes.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney enables you to appoint a fiduciary who will render financial decisions for you during your lifetime. It survives legal incapacity.
It is thus one of those most important items on your planning list after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Whoever you appoint as your agent through a durable power of attorney must not only not be financially literate but also trustworthy.
Drafting a proper durable power of attorney avoids the need to have a court appoint a legal guardian at the time of your incapacity—and allows you, while you can, to entirely control the choice of agent.
Designation of Healthcare Surrogate
A designation of healthcare surrogate is vital after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
This document appoints an agent to make healthcare decisions for you after you are no longer able to do so yourself.
The cost of healthcare after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is enormous.
A Florida Medicaid Planning attorney can also assist you in obtaining Medicaid benefits to assist in offsetting these costs.
However, Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security benefits are income-based programs. Careful planning is required to determine whether you are or will be eligible as your condition progresses.
Nursing Home Planning
Alzheimer’s is a difficult condition not only for yourself but for the friends and family members who will be responsible for your care.
If you know that full-time care will be required and that you will not qualify for Medicaid or other income-based assistance, an Orlando nursing home attorney can assist you with a variety of strategies to select and pay for the nursing facility that you may ultimately require.
Elder Care after an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Conclusion
Planning for your financial and healthcare needs after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is a complicated process.
However, it does not need to be an unmanageable process.
An Orlando, Florida Elder Care attorney experienced in long-term disability and lack of capacity planning will make your journey as smooth as can be expected.
Attorney Shea Fugate offers the experience and the empathy that you will require as you face this difficult challenge.
Contact us now to schedule an initial conversation about what you will need and where you are going.