DOLLARS & SENSE
Having a plan in place, step-by-step tips
Getting Ahead of Alzheimer’s
A person must clearly state in writing who is authorized to see or read their personal medical records.
More than 5 million Americans over age 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, a sustained and irreversible brain disorder than can take three to 10 or more years from diagnosis to death, depending on factors such as age. Early signs may include trouble with familiar tasks, mood changes and social withdrawal, time, reasoning and place confusion, you not being you for longer periods. The disease is named after Dr. Aloysius Alzheimer, a German neuropathologist.
One of the first things financial, legal and medical experts all encourage those recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease to do as soon as possible is to update their estate documents. Disease complications gradually affect the decision-making process, making early estate and financial planning even more important.
Advance directives for financial and estate planning must be created while the person still has legal capacity―a will, to provide for distribution of assets upon death; a durable power of attorney for finances, to help avoid future court actions; and a living trust, to hold title to property and assets for the beneficiaries once a person can no longer manage their own affairs.
There are also advance directives for health care, including such documents as a living will to record a person’s wishes for medical treatment near the end of life; a durable power of attorney for health care, to designate a person to make healthcare decisions; and a do not resuscitate, or a DNR order that instructs health-care professionals to not perform CPR if the heart or breathing stops. Access to private medical information is closely regulated by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, so a person must clearly state in writing who is authorized to see or read their personal medical records.
Paying for care is also a big concern as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Common costs can include ongoing medical treatment and doctor visits, medical equipment, home safety modifications, prescription drugs and, eventually, either in-home care or full-time residential care services outside the home. Many of these costs are not covered by Medicare and the average cost of caring for an earlier-stage patient at home is $56,800 per year, plus an average of an additional $7,000 per year to family members also providing caregiving services. For late-stage patients, in-home, round-the-clock health aides, or assisted-living facilities when combined with other ancillary costs, can easily exceed $100,000 per year.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible, degenerative and fatal disease that can rob an individual of a lifetime of memories and a lifetime of savings. With the help of financial, legal and medical professionals, having a plan in place for the future can ease some of the family’s stress and uncertainty. LEGAL, INVESTMENT AND TAX NOTICE: This information is not intended to be and should not be treated as legal advice, investment advice or tax advice. Readers, including professionals, should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific legal or tax advice from their own counsel. Steven V. Greenstein is Executive Vice President, Wealth Services, for The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company.