By Dr. Macie Smith
When a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, it’s important to start advance care planning as early as possible. Aging expert Dr. Macie Smith offers these tips to get the process started.
As I discussed previously, when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it is critical that you take a collaborative approach and partner in their care. Walking side by side as care partners will result in far better outcomes for everyone.
An early diagnosis of dementia gives you and your loved one time to make plans before their decision-making abilities are affected. Partnering with your loved one on advance care planning is a great way to preserve their independence and dignity and ensures that when the time comes, you will be able to take care of them to your best ability. Here’s where to start:
- Enlist an attorney.
One of the first things to do is secure an elder law attorney. This professional will be well versed in drawing up important documents such as a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney. These documents outline who is responsible for making financial and health-related decisions in the event your loved one is unable to.
These documents are particularly important when dealing with a progressive disease that results in cognitive decline. It’s important to note that if these documents aren’t in place, the Adult Health Care Consent Act dictates who the decision maker will be, typically starting with a spouse, then going to children from oldest to youngest.
- Become a co-signer on financial documents.
With your loved one’s consent, a responsible party should become a co-signer on any back accounts, pension plans or other financial documents. This allows you to become familiar with your loved one’s assets and understand what needs to be managed while your loved one is still able to be involved.
- Be on top of bills.
As your loved one’s cognitive abilities decline, they also may experience diminished executive functioning, that is, the ability to get things done. They may forget to pay the electric bill or other utilities. Work with your loved one to gain online access to accounts and automate payments. Adding your email to their account is useful in case passwords are forgotten.
- Make a list of medical providers.
From the primary care physician to the pharmacy to any specialists your loved one sees, it’s a good idea to know all the players on the care team in the event health issues arise. Ask your loved one to add you to the HIPAA form so that you have access to their medical information.
Dr. Macie P. Smith is a licensed gerontology social worker who is focused on helping families support their aging loved ones through long-term care. Specifically, Dr. Smith educates caregivers on how to care for seniors with dementia. She is an advocate for specialized care and assists others in finding a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Smith has dedicated over 22 years of her life working in gerontology and assisting families in finding personalized solutions for dementia care.
Whether your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, understanding the disease and identifying the right family caregiver resources and support can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
Rest assured, SYNERGY HomeCare is here to help you navigate through uncharted waters and create peace of mind in caring for your loved one experiencing dementia or memory loss.
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