Our Estate Planning Blog

What Should I Do When Alzheimer’s Strikes a Family Member?

Planning for Alzheimers
Getting older often represents new opportunities, such as enjoying retirement and spending time with grandchildren. However, aging also means that individuals are at a higher risk for health-related struggles, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease International predicts that 44 million individuals worldwide have Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia, and 25% of those living with it never receive a diagnosis. Newsmax’s recent article, “5 Insurance Steps After Alzheimer’s Strikes Loved One” says that although the patient may not yet need one-on-one care, the day will come when they do. Healthcare, including assisted living, memory care, and in-home care is expensive. Planning for Alzheimer’s immediately is critical to meet later needs. Health insurance is an important component of managing the ongoing expenses of living with Alzheimer’s. The disease is progressive, and most people live an average of three to eleven years after diagnosis.

Look at your existing policies. There are different types of coverage, depending on the policy type and company. Review current insurance policies to determine if the level of coverage is acceptable and how much will be required to be paid out-of-pocket. See if there’s existing coverage for long-term care, hospital care, doctors’ fees, prescriptions and home health care.

Maintain those policies. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does offer some protections for those diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. They can now access government subsidies to help them purchase health insurance and the Affordable Care Act prohibits pre-existing condition exclusions and cancellation, because the policyholder is considered high cost.

Look into long-term care insurance. This is a way to protect the patient and the family financially, when the day arrives when long-term care is necessary. This is a situation where planning for Alzheimer’s must be done well in advance.  Once diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a person isn’t eligible for long-term care insurance.

In addition to verifying and reviewing insurance coverage, there are some additional tasks that every family should address in the early stages of a diagnosis.

Sign an advance directive. This document allows patients to voice how they want their healthcare and decisions handled, before they are no longer capable of making decisions for themselves. In addition, they should have a living will that states their wishes for medical treatment, a designated power of attorney to can make financial decisions and a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, if that is their wish.

Complete estate planning. Estate planning documents should be reviewed or, if none have been done, started as soon as possible with an experienced estate planning attorney. Starting this process early, long before any questions about the patient’s capacity can be raised, is extremely important.  Waiting even a little bit in these cases can be a terrible mistake.  At an absolute minimum three documents are needed: a will, power of attorney for property and, ideally, a living trust to determine what happens to property after death.  Keep in mind that these are just the basics.  Every family situation is unique and many additional documents or specific provisions to address its needs.

Planning for Alzheimer’s immediately upon diagnosis can give families many more options with insurance, healthcare and the law, than they would have if they waited, so keep this in mind.

Reference: Newsmax (June 28, 2019) “5 Insurance Steps After Alzheimer’s Strikes Loved One”


Please Share!