Essential Planning

Professionals encourage anyone recently diagnosed with a serious illness, especially one that is potentially debilitating, to examine and update their financial and health care arrangements as soon as possible. That means gathering and reviewing financial records, wills, trusts, and advance directives and perhaps putting new ones in place. Prompt financial and legal planning is particularly important with Alzheimer's because the disease gradually impairs the ability to reason and make decisions about how to manage money, assets, and health.

Laws governing health care and finance decisions are enormously complicated and vary from state to state, so you should probably consult a lawyer who can help you ensure that your loved one's wishes are carried out and your family's needs are addressed. An attorney can also advise you about how changes in a situation — for instance, a divorce, relocation, or death in the family — can influence legal documents and arrangements.

Alert

When possible, advance planning should take place soon after a diagnosis of early-stage AD, while the person can participate in discussions. People with early-stage AD are often capable of understanding many aspects and consequences of legal decision-making, according to the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR).

Your loved one's papers should all be in one place. Make sure you know where they are. An attorney who specializes in elder law can be particularly helpful in planning your finances and helping you learn how to conserve and spend financial assets while you are caring for a loved one.

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