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Michigan Elder Law Today

Monday, July 23, 2018

What to Do After a Dementia Diagnosis

Many elderly people who are diagnosed with dementia are unprepared for future care. Once this type of diagnosis is received, preparing for the future can no longer be avoided. If you or someone you love has received a dementia diagnosis, begin immediately to discuss and seek guidance for future care. For help in implementing the steps that need to be taken and for developing a plan, seek the guidance of an elder law attorney.

  1. First, take steps to understand the diagnosis. When your elderly loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, be sure to learn as much as possible about the diagnosis and how it will affect the life of your loved one and all those involved. Be sure to go to appointments with the doctors who are testing and diagnosing. Make a list of questions to ask and get input on the long-term care needs of your loved one who has received the dementia diagnosis. If the doctors cannot completely answer all of your concerns, seek resources from reputable sources, such as an Alzheimer's or other dementia support group. Having this understanding can help with legally planning for your loved one’s care.
  2. Next, assemble family members and discuss how to proceed with care planning. It is important to be unified as a family in order to best meet the needs of your loved one with dementia. It is important to communicate clearly and to get input from all interested parties. This includes listening to the wishes of your loved one. During this process, look to present and future needs. Make plans together for how these care needs are going to be met. Remember to be patient with other family members. This type of diagnosis affects everyone differently.
  3. Then, get legal and financial plans in place. Deciding on a person who will be authorized to make health care and financial decisions for the dementia patient is one major part of the plan. In addition, plans for how long-term care will be executed and paid for should be put into place. This is where an elder law attorney can be beneficial. The attorney can assess resources, find the best pay to pay for long term care, and help the family to get all the necessary documents in place. A patient advocate is the person who will make health care decisions when your loved one is no longer capable. A financial power of attorney is another document that is necessary. The agent named in the financial power of attorney will be able to execute financial affairs of your loved one with dementia.
  4. Finally, understand and explore options for long-term care. This can be done through web searches and by meeting with agencies who specialize in dementia care. Care needs can change over time. In the beginning stages of dementia, in-home respite or companion care, home health services, and adult day cares may provide for your loved one’s care needs. However, care needs increase as the disease progresses. This is when facility care may become necessary. It is important to understand the differences between the various types of facilities and what is best for your family’s needs.  Some of these facilities include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and memory care facilities.  Nursing homes cost in excess of $8,300.00 per month, though Medicaid can help pay for the cost of a nursing home.  Be prepared with an understanding of long-term care options before the time comes and your family will be able to make the best care and financial decisions for your loved one with dementia.

Once a dementia diagnosis has been given to your loved one, do not waste time in beginning to understand and prepare for the future with the diagnosis. Planning and preparations can take some of the stress from families and allow them to best support their loved one with dementia. Seek proper guidance from attorneys and organizations who have experience with planning for care of a dementia patient. Most importantly, support, love, and respect your loved one with dementia.

If you have a loved one with dementia, please give me a call if you need help.


Andrew Byers is an elder law attorney in Troy, Michigan who assists seniors with dementia and their families


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