“Obviously, the first step is to work with your doctor to slow the progression. However, there are legal steps you need to take as quickly as possible.”
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or any serious progressive disease takes some time to absorb. However, during the days and weeks after the diagnosis, it is important to take quick steps to protect the person’s health as well as their legal and financial lives, advises the recent article “What to do after an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis?” from The Indiana Lawyer.
Here are the legal steps that need to be taken before the person is too incapacitated to legally conduct their own affairs:
General Durable Power of Attorney—A person needs to be appointed to perform legal and financial duties when the time comes. This can be a family member, trusted friend or a professional.
Health Care Proxy / Health Care Power of Attorney—A person must be entrusted with making health care decisions when the patient is no longer able to communicate their wishes.
HIPAA Authorization—Without this document, medical care providers will not be able to discuss the person’s illness or share reports and test results. An authorized person will be able to speak with doctors, pick up prescriptions and obtain medical reports. However, it is not a decision-making authorization.
Living Will—The living will explains wishes for end-of-life medical care, including whether to prolong life using artificial means.
Funeral Plans—Some states permit the creation of a legally enforceable document stating wishes for funerals, burials or cremation and memorial services. If a legal document is not permitted, then it is a kindness to survivors to state wishes and be as specific as possible to alleviate the family’s stress about what their loved one would have wanted.
Medicaid Planning—Care for Alzheimer’s and other dementias becomes extremely costly in the late stages. A meeting with an elder law attorney is important to see if the family’s assets can be protected while obtaining benefits to pay for long-term and dementia care.
After the patient dies, there may be a claim against it from the state to recover Medicaid costs. By law, states must recover assets for long-term care and related drug and hospital benefits. All assets in the recipient’s probate estate are subject to recovery, except if a surviving spouse, minor children, a blind or disabled child is living or where recovery would cause hardship.
With good planning and the help of an experienced elder law attorney, the family may be able to mitigate claims by the government against the estate.
Reference: The Indiana Lawyer (Jan. 6, 2020) “What to do after an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis?”
For more information on elder law and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.