"Does mom want to live in a nursing home?”
“Does dad consider living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia to be 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 elder care experts such as myself 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 unexpectedly strike.
I know as a Fair Oaks elder lawyer, so many families avoid talking about Alzheimer’s or Dementia until it’s too late. Especially from a legal standpoint, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes or the documentation they have in place (or don’t), you could be left with a huge mess on your hands in the wake of this debilitating disease.
That’s why I always advise adult children to have 5 specific conversations 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? If they want to live alone in their home will that suit their personality or will loneliness and depression result? 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 financial durable power of attorney, health care directive and HIPAA documents 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.
- 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, long-term care insurance, 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 (ie. 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 much easier by simply planning ahead. Not to mention, mom or dad will appreciate your willingness to make sure their wishes are honored if and when incapacity occurs.
Of course after having such ‘tough conversations’ you find out that mom or dad is not truly protected from a legal standpoint if Alzheimer’s or Dementia should occur, please do not hesitate to contact me, your neighborhood Fair Oaks elder lawyer for help. You can schedule a complimentary appointment with our office by calling (916) 241-9661.