According to Cary estate planning attorney, Jackie Bedard, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Week (February 14th –21st) is the perfect time to have ‘tough conversations’ with aging parents about their wishes and plans should the disease ever strike.
CARY, NC, FEBRUARY 2011: “Does mom want to live in a nursing home?”
“How would dad expect living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia to affect his quality of life?”
“Is there legal documentation in place that ensures someone can act financially on mom or dad’s behalf if they are unable to?”
These are just three of many questions that experts are urging adult children to ask their parents during Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Week (February 14th– 21st). Without the answers to such questions, families could be left battling over long-term care, struggling financially, and not truly honoring their parent’s wishes should the disease strike their family and their parent's wishes not be known.
“Many families avoid talking about Alzheimer’s or Dementia until it’s too late,” says Cary estate planning lawyer Bedard. “Especially from a legal standpoint, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes or have the proper documentation in place, you could be left struggling financially to provide the quality care they need.
According to Bedard, there are five specific conversations adult children should have with their parents as soon as the opportunity presents itself. They comprise the following:
- Long-term care preferences– Does mom or dad want to live in a nursing home or would they prefer in-home care if the need presented itself? If they prefer a facility, what amenities and activities are important to them at this point in their life? These are questions that, if discussed in advance, can make the transition into an assisted living facility or a home-health care program much easier on everyone when the time comes.
- Current legal documentation– It’s imperative that adult children find out what legal documentation their parents have in place before incapacity occurs. This includes making sure their parents have a power of attorney, health care directive, and HIPAA forms so someone can easily step in to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf. Otherwise, the family will be forced to petition a court for control over their parent’s affairs if they have passed the point of legal capacity. Also, adult children should know where such documents are kept and have easy access to them if needed.
- Medical preferences and wishes– Adult children are urged to find out what type and how much medical care their parents want after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Do they have specific wishes about life support or other end-of-life medical treatments? Who do they want to make such decisions on their behalf? The answers to these questions will help your parents to feel secure knowing their wishes will be carried out during an otherwise emotionally-charged time.
- Current state of financial affairs– To ensure finances stay properly managed after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, adult children should use this week to start asking tough questions about their parent’s financial affairs. This includes finding out the location of any safety deposit boxes, bank accounts, investment or brokerage accounts, outstanding debts or other assets unknown to the family. Otherwise, necessary assets needed to cover long-term care or other expenses could be overlooked when memory loss ultimately occurs.
- Important contacts and information– While their memory is sharp, adult children should work with aging parents to compile a list of important contacts and information that will be useful to the family if memory loss occurs. This includes documenting key doctors, professional advisors (i.e. accountant, attorney, financial advisor) and important passwords for online accounts.
“While these conversations are certainly not easy to have, families can make the transition into living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia disease much easier by simply planning ahead,” says Bedard. “Not to mention, mom or dad will appreciate your willingness to make sure their wishes are honored if and when incapacity occurs”.
Attorney Jackie Bedard is the founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning in Cary, NC, a practice specializing in estate planning law. She is also an active member of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys. For more information on protecting yourself and your loved ones, call (919) 899-2901.