Legal and financial
If you have Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it is important for you to be a part of the decision-making about your financial and legal affairs, while you are able to make decisions and sign legal papers. Making arrangements in the early stages means that that you are able to control your own future.
Talk to your family. And make sure your money matters will be in the hands of someone you trust. Arrange for a power of attorney authorizing someone to legally make decisions on your behalf once you are no longer able to. Talk to a lawyer about naming someone to look after your financial interests.
Pull together your legal and financial documents such as:
- Bank accounts
- Insurance policies
- Pension plans, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)
- Home/car ownership
Wills and other important documents
As soon as possible after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, make a list of the important documents that you will need to have in place. Reviewing the list with your family members will let you be involved in making decisions about these documents. And it will help your caregiver and family members be aware of your wishes.
The names of these documents vary from province to province, and territory to territory, but they include:
- A will that states how your property should be divided after your death
- A document that names a substitute decision-maker who can make decisions about financial and legal matters on your behalf when you are no longer able to
- A document that names a substitute decision-maker for future health-care decisions
- A “living will” or “advance directive” that describes your wishes for health-care and end-of-life care in the future; this can help your family make difficult decisions that may arise during the course of the disease when you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself.
Contact a lawyer for specific information about the legal requirements in your province or territory. Or contact your closest Alzheimer Society for more information.
Also, gather the following legal and financial documents and information and let a trusted adviser and family member know where they are:
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Loans and mortgages
- Insurance policies (life, auto, home, disability)
- Pension plans and RRSPs
- Real estate, home, business, car ownership
- Prepaid funeral arrangements and/or cemetery plot
If you are unable to provide this information yourself, other sources for this information include:
- Personal paperwork (such as chequebooks, monthly bank statements or investment statements)
- Bank manager
- Financial consultant
- Previous employers
Health care and personal care planning
You can name someone to make health-care decisions for you when you are no longer able to do so. This person is called a substitute decision-maker.
Why is this important to discuss now?
As the disease progresses, your substitute decision-maker will have to make decisions about your care. For most people, making decisions on behalf of another person is difficult. By talking to your decision-maker now about the level of care you wish in the future, you will make those choices easier for your caregiver. You will also have the comfort of knowing that your future care will be in good hands.
If you think it would be helpful, write down your wishes. The Alzheimer Society can help you find legal documents regarding planning for future health care.
Even if you choose not to write things down or draw up a legal document, talk about these matters. Your verbal wishes can be just as valid. Let those closest to you know what you want and do not want for your future health and personal care.
Work, retirement and volunteer activities
If you are still working, talk to your employer about Alzheimer’s disease and your symptoms. Cutting down on your hours and responsibilities may be an option. Or you may have to stop working. If you own your own business, you will want to plan for its future.
Volunteering may provide an opportunity for you to continue using your skills and continue participating in activities that you have always enjoyed.
For now, you may need little or no help with daily living. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, you will find that you need help with activities such as cooking, housekeeping, shopping and transportation. Talk to family members and friends to see who would be able to help you with these tasks.
The Alzheimer Society can provide information and referrals to community and social services available in your area.
These may include:
- Live-in companions
- Assisted-living homes
- Supportive housing
- Retirement and long-term care facilities
Some questions to ask about residences
Is the residence Alzheimer-friendly?
- Are staff trained to care for people with Alzheimer’s disease?
- Can you walk safely indoors and outside?
- Does it have a home-like environment?
What is the care philosophy of the residence?
- Does it focus on the person’s needs?
- Can it accommodate your personal preferences for food, routines and activities?
What kind of medical care does the residence provide?
- Can you continue to see your own doctor?
- Is there a doctor on call?
- How often does the doctor visit?
- Can you meet the doctor?
- How are medical emergencies handled?
What kind of personalized care is available?
- Can you choose menus?
- Can you bring your pet?
- Can you bring your own furniture?
The Planning Checklist
The following checklist provides some of the key questions to ask when planning for the future.
- Who will be the substitute decision-maker for financial matters when you are unable to make those decisions for yourself?
- Do you have a will?
- Who will be your primary caregiver?
- What role will other family members play?
- Where are you currently living?
- If you live on your own, are you safe?
- Should you start investigating other options such as assisted living or long-term care facilities?
- Who will be your substitute decision-maker for health-care decisions?
- If your primary caregiver is unable to provide care on short notice (i.e., during a medical emergency), is there a plan in place?
- Are family and neighbours aware of the back-up plan?
Additional sources of information:
– Advocacy centre for the Elderly (ACE): http://www.advocacycentreelderly.org/
– VON “Caregiver-connect” portal: http://www.von.ca/en/caregiver-connect/home/default.aspx