The cost of dementia for worldwide care is more than $600 billion annually. To put it into context, the International Monetary Fund lists South Africa’s economy $595 billion. Every year, the number of diagnoses and the costs associated with caring for those with memory disorders will continue to rise. With the passing of comedian Robin Williams in recent days, and then the disclosure that he had early stages of Parkinson’s disease, these neurological diseases are again in the spotlight. It also brings to the forefront the options for those who are trying to assist with Medicaid planning after a dementia diagnosis.
Families and the Dementia Diagnosis
Typically, it’s the loved ones who take on the task of securing medical care for an elderly family member. Even those who have covered the basis before they became ill, the family must still understand the intricate workings of properly caring for their loved ones from a legal and financial perspective. It can significantly affect the level of care their loved one receives. The key is proper planning.
For those family members, this can be both overwhelming and stressful. Not only are they taking care of the elderly parent or other loved one, they’re also taking on the legal, medical and financial decisions, too.
Especially if a loved one has already been diagnosed with dementia or other similar diseases or disorders, an estate planning lawyer with experience in Medicaid laws is going to be your biggest ally. Other things you’ll need to consider as you move into the process of ensuring your family member receives the benefits he or she is entitled to include:
The Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney for health care (or healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney) is important as it allows your loved one’s wishes known when it comes to their healthcare. Keep in mind, a durable power of attorney isn’t reserved only for an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis. It’s an important element of every estate plan.
Remember, too, that each state has its own standards for determining these types of quagmires. If your family is scattered throughout the country, keep that in mind. Many family disagreements begin, surprisingly, over disputes about what’s legal and what’s not. More times than not, no one is wrong, it’s just that they don’t consider the laws from one state to the next.
Also, remember that if your loved one is already mentally incompetent, a durable power of attorney is not going to be enough. A legal guardianship will likely enter into the mix in these situations. They’re more time consuming and usually more expensive. Take the time now to cover those bases and prevent the more invasive legal route.
Ideally, your loved one will still have “testamentary capacity” to create these important documents, including and especially a last will and testament. Testamentary capacity simply means one has the mental capacity to enter into these types of documents. The reason it’s important for your will is simple: it will likely prevent anyone from contesting the will.
The time to plan for long term care insurance is now. This is true for everyone. If you wait until your elderly family member is ill, you may not be able to secure coverage and if you do, the premiums could be unaffordable.
Finally, don’t forget the 5 year look back period and spend down rules associated with Medicaid coverage. Your estate planning lawyer will be able to tell you what the government looks for in the 5 year look back as well as why the spend down rule is part of the process.
Have questions? We’d love to explore your family’s options. Contact us today.