You notice unusual changes in your mom, like forgetting how to get home from the grocery store, or not remembering how to work the microwave. You take her to the doctor and the diagnosis is dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s disease. Now is the time to talk to her and plan ahead for when she may be unable to make decisions for herself.
It may seem premature to initiate a discussion with a relative who is in the early stages of memory loss. After all, they are still independent and managing well. But dementia causes a gradual decline in reasoning, thinking and memory. You need to make plans with your loved one while they are still thinking clearly.
Discussing budget, finances and health care plans with a parent or other relative is not an easy conversation. The person with memory loss might be in denial or upset about losing their independence. They might not appreciate the role reversal of a child or grandchild managing their affairs. They might be suspicious of you or paranoid, which are personality changes associated with dementia.
But having the discussion early on allows your loved one to make decisions while they have the “legal capacity,” to understand and sign legal documents. Let your loved one know you want to be sure you can carry out their wishes. Imagine how hard it will be for you to advocate for them without this information when they lose their memory.
Four ways to help your loved one manage their dementia
To get a clear understanding of your loved one’s financial situation and healthcare preferences, find out about the following topics:
- Finances and budget
- Advanced directives for health care
- Advanced directives for finance and end of life plans
- Resources to cover long-term care costs
1. Managing finances for people with dementia
Losing the ability to manage finances is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If a loved one has bills stacking up, gets calls from collection agencies or is making unusual purchases, they may need help managing their finances. To get a full view of their finances, look at the following documents:
- Bank statements
- Estate documents
- Insurance policies
- Credit card statements
- Vehicle registration
- Retirement accounts
To help manage the budget:
- Set up automated bill payments
- Place their phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. This will reduce the risk of them falling prey to telemarketing schemes.
- Ask them to add you to their bank account if you will pay bills or purchase items on their behalf.
2. Advanced directive for health care
An advanced directive is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions made if you cannot make them yourself. It is prepared while the person has the ability to understand the document and make rational decisions.
The advanced directive goes into effect when you are incapacitated and cannot make decisions. The health care directive might include: