Elder Law Practice of
Douglas R Jones &
Cynthia Orlicek Jones

Whatever the Stage, You Can Do Productive Planning

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.  The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Another statistic they have shared with us is that 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for those with this disease. If you are a Family Caregiver for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s disease, you are among this group of people and are walking along the steps of this very difficult path.

Obviously not all Family Caregivers are providing care for a Loved One suffering with Alzheimer’s.  There are an estimated 40 million Family Caregivers providing care for the declining Senior in their lives.  But as you can see, the number of Alzheimer’s caregivers are a significant portion of this total.

Whether your Loved One has Alzheimer’s or not, there are steps that you, as a Family Caregiver can take to help map out the best going forward plan possible for them whatever stage they are in. There are many ways to make a plan, but we want to teach Productive Planning!

Productive Planning Stage 1: Planning For Yourself

If your Loved One still has the ability to reason and to make decisions about their own welfare, this is a gift that should not be taken for granted.  Capacity is sometimes on a slippery slope that can slip away very quickly. A visit with your Mom, Dad or other Loved One whom you are assisting will allow you to discover a few basic things:

  1. What type of care do they want should their condition worsen?
  2. Where would they want to receive care?
  3. Finances?  How will their care be financed?
  4. Legal? Have they done their estate planning?  If so, has it been reviewed lately? If they have not done it, will they do so?
  5. Family Meeting – If they have received a diagnosis, have they met with their family to discuss these issues.  This is not an easy discussion to have but will be very helpful to get better organized and to get everything in place.  If you need assistance with this very difficult process, watch for information on our Private Client Group coming soon.

Productive Planning Stage 2: Helping Your Parents Plan

After having done Productive Planning Step #1 above, this is the action step where you take what you have discovered and start putting the pieces of Mom or Dad’s productive planning into action.  A few (of the potentially many) things you may want to consider are:

Home Care Functional Improvements

If Mom decides to remain at home for as long as possible, what changes are needed to be made in order to make her home more functional as her cognitive or physical health declines?  For example, does she need to widen the doors (exterior and interior) to allow for safe passage of wheelchairs? Does the house need a wheelchair ramp? What about rails in the halls, grab bars in the bathrooms, walk-in tubs and many other low and high-tech enhancements that would allow a declining Senior to remain at home?

Financial

Do you know the nature, extent and location of your parents assets?  Most of the Adult Kids I have assisted don’t have a clue. Most people have been busy with their lives and have never discussed personal finances with their parents. However, as a parent starts to decline, this is an important (but probably uncomfortable) discussion to have. Where is their money? Can it be easily withdrawn to use for their care?  Will there be penalties or tax hits on withdrawal? Who is authorized to access it?

Legal

Does Mom or Dad have legal documents and where are they located?  They may have documents that are fine OR they may no longer be relevant.  For example, they may have been drafted when you were a baby and had the primary focus was nominating a guardian to provide for your care if Mom and Dad died before you became an adult.  Some documents were appropriate then but are not appropriate now. Some documents are even counterproductive and need to be reviewed or changed. AND obviously, if your Mom or Dad has not done any estate planning (like an estimated 70% of America) and no planning documents even exist, this may be the last chance to get things in order.  Especially important are things like health care documents and Powers of Attorney.

Productive Planning Stage 3: Planning for Nursing Home Care

This is the stage of productive planning where Mom or Dad has lost their ability to reason and you are doing everything for them.  If this is the case, hopefully the items mentioned in Stages #1 and #2 have been done; whether this is the case or not, you are still doing everything you can to help.  

If Mom or Dad has lost capacity, it may be way too late for them to sign any legal documents, but sometimes there are still planning actions that can be taken to improve the situation.  This is especially true if a Nursing Home placement is an option that is being considered down the road. We see so many people spend down everything, when with some proper planning, some of those assets could have been preserved.

Preserving assets is important in any situation, but is especially important where the “well” spouse is at home.  The well spouse may still have a clear mind but may need assistance with some of their activities of daily living.  The cost of care at home can exceed the cost of Nursing Home care, so it’s important to do what you can to preserve assets for their benefit.

If you are in Stage #2 or #3 with your parents, it’s especially important to meet with your Elder Law Attorney as soon as possible.  If you are in Arkansas and need to meet, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us!

It’s important to start the planning process as soon as possible, but better results can be achieved by starting the planning process, even at the last minute, than be doing no planning at all.

Thank You for being a Caregiver for Your Loved One – you are making a huge difference in their life!

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