There are more than 16 million people who act as caregivers to those with dementia, memory loss, or Alzheimer’s disease. According to Alz.org, that’s roughly 18.4 billion hours of care, which can be valued at almost $232 billion. Most of these caregivers are unpaid family who are taking care of an aging relative, whether that is a parent, sibling, or other relation. Some are friends, caring for other friends or a neighbor.
No matter your relation to the person you are giving care to, there are several ways to look out for your loved one as their age and disease progress. The best time to think about the future is now, and as early as possible in their diagnosis period. That way your loved one can make their own informed choices while they have the cognitive ability to understand and implement those important decisions.
Having The Talk
It can be difficult to talk frankly to your loved one about their wishes in the future, but it can save both parties heartache in the end. Try to talk to them in a positive, supporting manner. Remember: this is their life, and they should decide how they want to live it, to the extent that they can. The list of things to talk about covers a large swath of responsibilities and legal issues.
It doesn’t help that many people are afraid to sign over responsibility for their finances or medical decisions. However, with a plan in place, you can rest assured that your loved one will be well cared for when they are no longer able to care for themselves. If you move your loved one from their own home to a place such as Landmark Memory Care, you will need to have control of your loved one’s assets and legal decision making abilities.
A living will is a document that outlines what you want to be done in the event that you are incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. They are a good idea for anyone of any age, as it can take the stress of making decisions from your family in the event of an accident or disease. A living will is not the document that legally spells out where your property goes after you die, that is a regular Will, (which you should also have). A living will is simply a document that informs your family and doctors as to your wishes for medical care, end of life decisions, and even details such as preference for cremation or burial.
For example, in writing a living will, you can detail whether or not your loved one would like to have life-prolonging medical intervention (such as a feeding tube or ventilator) or if they would prefer to avoid those things. A living will does not give a caretaker the legal ability to make medical decisions on their loved one’s behalf- for that you need a Power of Attorney.
When to get it: As soon as you can! A living will can be invaluable in the event that your loved one has an accident, or loses their ability to communicate with you. There is no requirement for being of sound mind, legally, but it will make it easier if you fill one out earlier on.
How to get it: There are many resources on the Internet for living wills, such as the Five Wishes directive, which costs $5, but is valid in all 50 states. There are also free resources, but you will need to check to make sure that the form is valid in the state you live in.
Power of Attorney
The words Power of Attorney seem to scare many people, but it is an important document to have in hand as your loved one goes through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Your loved one must be of sound mind to initiate and sign the documents, so getting their power of attorney settled early is a good thing. Make sure that they choose the person they trust most to follow their wishes the way they have written them. It is important to trust this person because they will be handling the decision making when your loved one can no longer do so for themselves.
There are four types of Power of Attorney:
- General – Allows the agent (the person named as the power of attorney) to act on the grantor’s behalf in all personal, business, and financial decisions. General power of attorney becomes ineffective if the grantor dies or becomes incapacitated, whether through an accident or through disease.
- Durable – With a Durable power of attorney, your loved one is covered even if they become incapacitated. This means that you can make decisions on their behalf for all personal, business, and financial dealings from the time they invoke it until the grantor’s death.
- Healthcare – This power of attorney allows the agent to make decisions on the grantor’s behalf only in medical decisions. This includes making end of life decisions, such as hospice care, though a grantor can spell out certain decisions in the document.
- Springing – In certain states, it is possible to create a springing power of attorney, which only implements in the event of the grantor becoming incapacitated. You will need to find out if your state allows this, or if you must use one of the other three.
When to get it: As soon as possible! Your loved one needs to be of sound mind to initiate and sign the power of attorney, so talk to them today.
How to get it: Talk to your loved one’s lawyer, or find them a lawyer who deals with power of attorney. Some states require notarization of the documents as well, so be prepared!
A conservatorship is also sometimes referred to as a guardianship. In this case, a court will appoint your loved one a guardian in the event that they are incapacitated and have no one able to make their legal decisions for them. This is usually a last move to be made, in the event that someone becomes incapacitated without the proper legal papers or guardianship in place already. A conservator generally oversees just the estate, unless they are appointed as a legal guardian, where they must care for the incapacitated person day to day.
A guardianship is more challenging than having the power of attorney in place. You will have to be appointed as a conservator of your loved one by a court, and you will be required to check in with the court regularly to document all of your decisions regarding your loved one’s care.
Landmark Memory Care
When the time comes to start thinking about moving your loved one to a facility which can best accommodate their memory care needs, it is important to have the correct legal protections in place. Without these documents, your loved one may not be treated the way they would have preferred to be treated at the end stages of their life.
In most cases, you will need to have the proper legal setup in place before your loved one can reside in a facility long-term. Talk to your loved one today about their wishes, and make sure to keep a copy of all the documents in your safe, and with your lawyer. Landmark Memory Care does require these forms to be filled out prior to application. You can also talk to us at Landmark Memory Care about what legal documentation you will need to have in place before your loved one is able to be a part of our community.