You should see the complete picture when you are putting an estate plan together. Of course, you have to address the financial part of the equation, and this is at the core of the process.
At the same time, it is important to think about end-of-life realities.
Unfortunately, incapacity is quite common among elders, and Alzheimer’s disease is the biggest culprit. Everyone has heard about it, but many people are surprised when they find out how widespread it has become.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 10 percent of all senior citizens have contracted the disease.
The likelihood of falling victim to Alzheimer’s increases as you get older. Almost a third of people that are at least 85 years old are suffering from this terrible challenge. It is immeasurably difficult for the elders that are experiencing it, and it is also devastating for their loved ones.
When you mix in the fact that Alzheimer’s is not the only cause of dementia, you can see that cognitive incapacity is something that everyone should take very seriously.
What Do You Do?
In addition to the cognitive impairment that can strike elders, many people become unable to communicate toward the end of their lives because of their physical health problems. This is true for Americans of all ages, so incapacity planning is a must for everyone.
Advance health care directives are legally binding documents that are used to address incapacity as it applies to medical matters. One directive that everyone should have in place is a living will.
With this type of will, you state your preferences with regard to the use of life-sustaining measures. You can record your choices for each different form of life-support, and you can include organ and tissue donation approvals.
There are medical situations that can arise that have nothing to do with life-support. To account for this, you can include a document called a durable power of attorney for health care. You can name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in this advance directive.
In order for doctors to be able to speak freely with your health care agent, you should include a HIPAA release form. This is necessary because of the restrictions that were put in place when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was passed.
In addition to the medical part of the equation, you should address the financial aspect when you are putting your incapacity plan together. You can add a durable power of attorney for property to give someone the ability to manage your financial affairs if it ever becomes necessary.
When you learn about the estate planning tools that are available, you may choose to use a living trust as the centerpiece of your plan. One of the advantages is the ability to name a disability trustee to manage the trust in the event of your incapacity.
Caregiver Support Resources
When you have a parent that is struggling with incapacity, it can be overwhelming. There are no words to describe the feeling, and we will not try to find them here. This being stated, there are resources that can help ease the burden, and you should explore them if you feel the need.
We cited a statistic that was shared by the Alzheimer’s Association, and this organization does some fantastic work with families that are touched by the disease. This is a valuable resource, and you can tap into it if you visit the webpage for the Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Another organization that you may want to connect with is the Michigan Family Caregiver Alliance. This is an offshoot of the National Center on Caregiving, and it is a good place to start if need some sound information.
We Are Here to Help!
If you would like to put an incapacity plan in place for yourself for a family member, our doors are open.
We chose the elder law field because we sincerely care about the well-being of seniors. Their contributions to our communities are invaluable, and they have earned the right to pass through this stage of life with comfort and dignity.