28 Aug Planning for the Long Goodbye: Jacob Wooley, Partner
Many of us know someone who suffers with a form Dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s Disease. Dementia in all its forms slowly rips independence away from those who suffer its ravages. While no amount of planning can eliminate the emotional pain encountered when a family member slips away, proper financial and legal planning can assist caregivers with the daily practicalities of life thereby alleviating a portion of stress and anxiety.
Caring for a person with dementia can last years, and there are few outside resources to help pay for this kind of care.
- Health insurance does not cover assisted living or nursing home facilities, or help with activities of daily living.
- Medicare covers some in-home health care and a limited number of days of skilled nursing home care, but not long-term care.
- Medicaid, which does cover long-term care, has very strict eligibility requirements; the person’s assets must be spent down to almost nothing to qualify.
- VA benefits for Aid & Attendance will help pay for some care, including assisted living and nursing home facilities, for veterans and their spouses who qualify.
- Those who have significant assets can pay as they go. Home equity and retirement savings can also be a source of funds.
- Long-term care insurance may also be an option, but many people wait until they are not eligible or the cost is prohibitive.
However, for the most part, families are not prepared to pay these extraordinary costs, especially if they go on for years. As a result, family members are often required to provide the care for as long as possible.
What Can Be Done to Support the Patient and the Family?
- PLAN NOW! Having options—additional caregivers, alternate sources of funds, respite care for the caregiver—can help relieve many stressors. In addition, there are many legal options to help families protect hard-earned assets from the rising costs of long term care and to access funds to help pay for that care.
- Watch for early signs of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) has prepared a list of signs and symptoms that can help individuals and family members recognize the beginnings of dementia.
- Seek assistance. Find out what resources might be available. We can prepare necessary legal documents that help maximize income, retirement savings and long-time care insurance as well as apply for VA or Medicaid benefits.
- Take good care of the caregiver. Caregivers need support and time off to take care of themselves. Arrange for relief from outside caregivers or other family members.
Waiting too long to plan for the need for long-term care, especially for dementia, can throw a family into confusion about what Mom or Dad would want, what options are available, what resources can help pay for care and who is best-suited to help provide hands-on care, if needed. Having the courage to discuss the possibility of incapacity and/or dementia before it happens can go a long way toward being prepared should that time come.