Confronting the possibilities that you or a loved one will one day suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s is a prospect too terrible to consider. That’s why a new book “Don’t Let Dementia Steal Everything” by famed attorneys Kerry Peck (www.PeckRitchey.com) and Rick Law (www.LawElderLaw.com) is both compelling and frightening.
More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and new cases are added every year. Sadly, the physical body often remains strong, while the mind rapidly “disappears”. From a financial point of view, the costs associated with caring for a person with this dread disease are daunting – often wiping out a lifetime of savings and leaving a surviving spouse with few resources.
But there are ways to deal with the costs of care and the emotional costs as well. That’s the message at the heart of this helpful book, which details not only the legal planning issues but the opportunities to tap into resources that can make the journey easier.
Says Peck: “ If you don’t plan, the government will plan for you!” Without documents, you’ll end up in guardianship court where the court decides your health care, how much money will be spent on it and your financial needs. Thereafter upon your death, a probate court will distribute any remaining assets, perhaps to relatives you didn’t want to receive your money!”
The authors advise you use the book as a reference guide to finding quality legal advice, with individual chapters covering topics like Finding an elder law attorney (www.NAELA.org),creating advance directives, dealing with Medicare and Medicaid, protecting assets for the “community spouse”, the hidden traps of nursing home contracts, as well as avoiding exploitation and scams, and tips for home caregivers so that costs may be deductible.
Planning for dementia and Alzheimer’s involves a long and intimidating list of things you never wanted to know. But if everyone would read this book at the first signs of memory loss, the process would be easier along the way of the inevitable progression of the disease.
A few examples:
• Understanding the importance of creating healthcare and financial powers of attorney and end-of-life directives while the person is competent to make those decisions. And having the correct legal expertise to craft these documents carefully, so they can be appropriately enforced when needed.
• Creating a caregiver contract to avoid allegations of financial abuse. If an adult child is added to a senior’s checking account to more easily pay household bills, it’s important to keep careful records to avoid charges of financial abuse (perhaps from siblings who are not present but want some of the estate!). A simple “personal care contract” can validate the spending process.
• Assuring Medicaid eligibility. When full-time care is required and assets are depleted, state Medicaid programs will pay for care in certain facilities. But simply transferring assets to “spend down” in order to qualify is considered fraud – and most states have a 5-year “lookback period” to reclaim those assets. And a revocable living trust is not a protection against Medicaid asset claims.
• Protecting the family home for the remaining spouse, or an adult child who moves in to act as a documented caregiver for at least two years.
Some simple and relatively inexpensive advance planning can both provide care and protect assets legally. But you must confront these issues before a crisis.
Let me say it bluntly: You need to read this book, published by the American Bar Association, and available on Amazon.
Alzheimer’s or dementia can happen at any age. And it’s easy for the early signs to be dismissed. Forgetting why you walked into the kitchen is not the same as forgetting where you are, or losing short term memory of events.
Even worse, millions of seniors live alone with no one around to notice the increasing memory lapses. If you fall into that category, you need to find a trustee (not a friend that is your own age) to handle these important powers for your finances and care. Them don’t procrastinate about creating the documents.
Let’s face it: None of us is getting out of here alive. Create the plan now so you can exert some control over your exit to make it easier on those who love you – and yourself. That’s The Savage Truth.