You will never forget the moment you received the news that your spouse has Alzheimer’s disease. The vision you had of your future growing old together was shattered. After the initial shock, anger, and sadness, you took a deep breath and made the best of it. Your next step is planning ahead for the care of your spouse suffering from Alzheimer’s.
The future care of your spouse will involve three major components:
- Legal documents
- Financial preparation
- Make care decisions
As your spouse’s disease progresses, she will lose the legal capacity to make important decisions and sign legal documents. Talk with an elder law attorney to discuss the legal documents that should be prepared right away, so there will be no question later on whether your spouse had the mental capacity to sign a legally enforceable document.
Assemble the legal papers you already have and go over them with your lawyer to update them for your situation. Make a list of your property and assets, including all investments and bank accounts, and your debts. Discuss with your lawyer the best way to protect your assets for the future and how to deal with your debts. Put your spouse’s preferences for health care and long-term care in writing.
A power of attorney document will designate someone to make financial decisions for your spouse, when he can no longer do so. However, make sure that it is a durable power of attorney, so it will still be valid after he becomes incapacitated. A health care proxy will name someone to make health care and end-of-life decisions for him when he cannot do so. Have him sign a medical release of information, so HIPAA regulations will not ban the person named in the health care proxy from seeing his medical records.
Make sure that your spouse has a will or living trust, so she can decide what to do with her assets after she passes. If she does not have a will or living trust, the laws of the state will give her property to her legal heirs through the rules of intestacy, regardless of what she would have wanted.
Once you have your legal documents in order and you have made an inventory of your assets and debts, you can tackle the financial aspect of your spouse’s diagnosis. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a checklist of many of the costs you may expect to incur , whether your spouse will receive in-home or residential care services.
Explore every possible source of funding for your spouse’s future care costs. Funding sources often will cover some items but not others, so you must piece it all together like a quilt to have the best financial assistance package. Your spouse may be eligible for veterans or other government benefits to help with some services or expenses. If you have a long-term care insurance policy, see what benefits it will provide and for how long.
Make Care Decisions
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, you must put together a care team for your spouse. You cannot do this job 24/7 without some help. Talk with family members and close friends to let them know what to expect and the ways they can help. Make sure that your spouse develops a relationship with medical professionals in the early stages of the disease, so she will be comfortable with them later.
Seek community resources for services, such as government agencies, neighborhood organizations, churches and other social groups. Find out what in-home and full residential memory care services are available in your area.
The better you plan, the easier things will be later. The laws are different in every state, so talk with a local elder law attorney.
Alzheimer’s Association. “Building a Care Team.” (accessed October 29, 2017) https://www.alz.org/i-have-alz/building-a-care-team.asp
Alzheimer’s Association. “Financial Planning.” (accessed October 29, 2017) https://www.alz.org/i-have-alz/financial-planning.asp
Alzheimer’s Association. “Legal Planning.” (accessed October 29, 2017) https://www.alz.org/i-have-alz/legal-planning.asp