Next Steps: Getting Your Affairs In Order
Hearing the news that you have Young Onset Alzheimer’s Disease is of course devastating. Every emotion is felt – fear, loss, relief, denial, and guilt. While these emotions are overwhelming, we have each chosen to connect through this website, to share our experiences in taking the next steps. Hopefully that the knowledge we have all gained from our collective journeys will make yours easier. There is life and joy after a diagnosis of Young Onset (also known as Early Onset) Alzheimer’s Disease. You and your loved ones will learn to live with the disease and ‘take it one day at a time.’ But first, there are some steps that should be taken to help protect your memory and your independence.
Take control and plan now
This is a good time to plan for the future when you may need more help. Don’t delay getting your affairs in order, concerning financial and legal issues for Young Onset Alzheimer’s.
Though difficult for all involved, there are discussions that need to take place, and decisions that need to be made, in the immediate future. The future will be much easier if you’ve done your homework.
Planning for Financial Issues
Many people with early memory problems have been the victims of scams, have made bad investment decisions, or have forgotten to pay bills, which resulted in insurance policies being cancelled and utilities being turned off. All were very intelligent, competent people who would never have made these decisions or mistakes before the onset of memory problems.
The best defense against this situation is to contact a lawyer now to help you execute a Financial Power of Attorney. With this document, you empower a domestic partner, a trusted family member, or a close friend to manage your finances when you are no longer able.
Your trusted ‘agent’
• That designated person should be chosen carefully.
• You should have a thorough conversation with them with about what the responsibility entails.
• They should be knowledgeable about your financial situation.
• Perhaps with the help of an attorney or financial advisor, your trusted agent can aid you in developing a plan for the future management of your finances.
• In addition, a successor agent or agents should be named, in the event the original agent is unavailable or unwilling to serve.
Transfer of responsibility
• Power of attorney documents should be written so that they are ‘durable,’ meaning that they are valid even after you are incapacitated and can no longer make decisions.
• Power of attorney does not give the appointed person, as your ‘agent,’ the authority to override your decisions, as long you have legal capacity — even if others don’t agree with your decisions.
• If and when you no longer have legal capacity to govern your own affairs, the agent is authorized to manage and make decisions about your income, assets and financial obligations.
• The agent is responsible for acting according to your instructions, and in your best interests.
Planning for Healthcare Issues
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A separate power of attorney for health care allows you to name a health care ‘agent’ to make your health care decisions when you are no longer able. Often this is the same person as your financial power of attorney agent.
Health decisions covered by the power of attorney for health care include:
• Doctors and other health care providers
• Types of treatments
• Care facilities
For a person in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, the health care agent also may make end-of-life decisions, such as whether to provide nutrition through a feeding tube, or whether to give ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) instructions to health care providers.
Advanced Directive for Health Care
Some states, including Georgia, combine the durable power of attorney for healthcare with a living will or declaration that legally documents the preferences of the ‘principle’ (person with Young Onset). This combined document is known as an Advance Directive.
Those preferences include whether to provide life support or nutrition in various irreversible-condition or end-of-life scenarios. A lawyer typically prepares the required documents.
It is important for you to talk through your wishes regarding care with their chosen agent early on, to make sure your agent understands those wishes. The agent should be both willing and able to act on your behalf, and to ensure that your stated wishes are carried out.
Planning for your children
As a person with Young Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, you may face legal guardian issues if you have dependent children. A legal guardian is an adult designated to care for a child in case both parents either die or become incapacitated before that child reaches adulthood. While the thought might make you shudder, you need to choose a guardian so the courts don’t do it for you if the worst should happen.
Be sure your preferences are documented
Many people mistakenly think that their mother or sister would automatically receive custody of your child in these circumstances. However, unless you specifically name a guardian in your will, anyone can step forward and ask for the job, and a judge will decide who gets custody.
• If you and your spouse or partner have separate wills, it’s best to name the same person as the guardian of your child to avoid conflicts.
• Many parents also name an alternate guardian in case their first choice is unwilling or unable to accept the responsibility.