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According to Marietta elder law attorney, Steve Worrall, 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.
“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 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 unexpectedly strike.“So many families avoid talking about Alzheimer’s or Dementia until it’s too late,” says Steve Worrall. “Especially from a legal standpoint, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes or the documentation they have in place, you could be left with a huge mess on your hands in the wake of this debilitating disease.” According to Worrall, there are 5 specific conversations adult children should have with their parents as soon as the opportunity presents itself. They comprise the following:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 much easier by simply planning ahead,” says Worrall.“Not to mention, mom or dad will appreciate your willingness to make sure their wishes are honored if and when incapacity occurs”.
Stephen M. Worrall is an experienced family law and wills, trusts, estate planning, probate and elder law attorney in Marietta and Atlanta, Georgia. He concentrates his practice in all areas of estate planning, including wills, trusts, guardians for minor children and incapacitated adults, probate and trust administration, and all areas of family law, including divorce (litigated and collaborative), adoption, prenuptial agreements, domestication of foreign decrees, child custody, child support, property division, alimony, modification, paternity, legitimation, contempt, enforcement of judgments, domestic violence, grandparent’s visitation, and name changes. He also helps families plan to protect their assets and their children in the event of their death or incapacity, and to transfer their whole wealth – their financial,
intellectual, and spiritual assets – to their loved ones.